Hiding in Plain Sight by GinevrasChampion
Summary: When the Weasley wedding is attacked, Harry grabs the first hand that comes to mind - Ginny's. They find Voldemort has hidden his Horcruxes in plain sight out of some of Muggle history's most important artifacts. Now the pair go across the continent, risking capture by both the Muggle and wizarding worlds, to end the war.
Categories: Alternate Universe
Chapter 1: Chapter 1 - The Underground
Chapter 2: Chapter 2 - Coming to Terms
Chapter 3: Chapter 3 - The Hero Who Slouches
Chapter 4: Chapter 4 - Pretty Woman
Chapter 5: Chapter 5 - The Night Flyer
Chapter 6: Chapter 6 - Off Solid Ground
Chapter 7: Chapter 7 - The Ghetto
Chapter 8: Chapter 8 - Still Recruiting
Chapter 9: Chapter 9 - It Sort of Wore Out
Chapter 10: Chapter 10 - Vainglorious
Chapter 11: Chapter 11 - Restituo Amare
Chapter 12: Chapter 12 - Lockhart with Skills
Chapter 13: Chapter 13 - Finding Bishop
Chapter 14: Chapter 14 - The Best Bit of Bait
Chapter 15: Chapter 15 - Something You'll Like
Chapter 16: Chapter 16 - She's My Little Angel
Chapter 17: Chapter 17 - Miracles and Magic
Chapter 18: Chapter 18 - That Ginny, This Ginny
Chapter 19: Chapter 19 - Muggle Potions
Chapter 20: Chapter 20 - Haunting
Chapter 1: Chapter 1 - The Underground
Author's Notes: Hi all! This is my first fic, although I'm a professional writer in both original fiction and non-fiction and have been an avid reader here. I don't have a beta yet, so if you're interested drop me a line. Bonus points if you're British or can do their slang better than a Muggle American can. Enjoy!
With a crack, Ginny Weasley appeared in the middle of Victoria Street in London. The sound of a grumbling diesel engine brought her attention to the side, where a red double-decker bus was bearing down on her. She only had time to take in the air she would need to scream when a hand grabbed the back of her shimmering gold dress and pulled her onto the sidewalk behind her.
Still wide-eyed, she turned behind her to find the hyperventilating face of a 13-year-old Muggle boy with red hair and freckles. It took her a moment to make the connection, but once she did she knew she was safe. The visage was just a disguise using Polyjuice potion, adopted by the most wanted wizard in Britain so he could attend the wedding of Ginny’s oldest brother, Bill, and Fleur Delacour.
“Harry! Are you alright?”
He chuckled. “You’re the one that almost got run over.”
Ginny started surveying her surroundings. The cars and trucks whipping past them. The restaurants and clubs, some of them with lines extending out the front doors. More lines at the food stands. Noise. Muggle London.
“We have to go back!” Ginny called to Harry. She meant it as a plea. It sounded more like an order.
“We can’t,” was his only response.
“But, my family! Our friends! We have to help them!”
Just before Ginny and Harry Apparated to safety, a patronus from Kingsley Shacklebolt interrupted the wedding reception, announcing that the dark wizard Voldemort and his legion of followers, the Death Eaters, had overtaken the Ministry of Magic, killed the Minister, and were now in charge of all government in the wizarding world. Not a minute passed before Death Eaters broke through the defenses of the Weasley family property, The Burrow, and started attacking the gathered guests in a hale of fire, bright colored lights, and screaming.
Harry just stared across the street. “They were there for me,” he said more to himself than to Ginny.
She rose to her feet. “They were there for all of us. Let’s go.” She held out her arm. She couldn’t Apparate herself. Harry didn’t even look at it, even though her elbow was inches from his face.
“If I’m not there, they’ll leave. Right?”
Ginny started stamping her foot in impatience. “You know they won’t. We need to help them. You need to help them.”
Harry looked up into her face for the first time and reached for the crook of her arm before pulling back. “It’s suicide.”
“You’re a coward!” Ginny screamed at him before marching her way down the sidewalk, long auburn hair fluttering purposefully behind her. She regretted it as soon as she said it. The last word that could be ascribed to Harry Potter was “coward”. Harry scrambled to his feet and jogged after her.
“What are you doing?”
“Going home. My family needs me. Our family needs me.”
“And what are you going to do, Gin? Hitchhike? Take the train to Devon?” Harry was having trouble keeping up with her as her meaningful trot became a jog.
“Whatever it takes. At least I know what that means.”
Harry grabbed her by the arm. Ginny’s hopes lifted before she realized they were still on Victoria Street. Her narrow brown eyes stared up at Harry. He had never seen her look so fierce. If only her skills in magic could equal the intensity he saw in her face, she could have taken down the entire Ministry of Magic herself. Meanwhile, his attitude just fell. Even though it was a strange face, missing the wavy black hair, bright green eyes, and the famous thunderbolt scar, Ginny saw exactly what he was thinking. She always could.
“What do we do, Harry?” She asked in the process of holding back a sob.
“I don’t know. But we will do something. I promise.” He held out his other hand. Ginny’s inched its way toward it. “But we can’t go back. Not now. They had too many people. And if they see me come back with you, they’ll know…” He looked down to his feet. This was everything he had been trying to avoid for the last year.
“They’ll know what?”
Harry took in a sharp breath. “They’ll know you’re important to me. And they’ll take you, too.”
Ginny couldn’t help but squeeze his hand. She knew he cared about her, of course. She knew last school year, when she would catch him staring at her for no reason. She knew when he finally kissed her at the party, after their house had won the Quidditch Cup. She even knew when he broke their relationship off. He wanted to keep her safe, he said, and she believed him. And yesterday, she knew his feelings hadn’t changed when she dragged him into her room at The Burrow and kissed him for his birthday until they were both short of breath and her brother Ron barged in. She had spent the next 24 hours wondering what would’ve happened if he didn’t…
Harry looked down at her dress, then his dress robes from the wedding. He swiveled his head around. People were starting to stare, and not for the usual reason people stared at them.
“We’ve got to change. You look…” Ginny raised an eyebrow at him. “Ummm… fine. But I’m standing out.”
She smirked at him. “Ok, Potter. Where do we go?”
“I left some clothes at Grimmauld Place last summer.” He shook his head. “But that’s a stupid idea. It’s dangerous. The Death Eaters probably know about it, even with the Fidelis charm. That’s why we abandoned it.” To anyone other than the Order of the Phoenix, the townhouse at 12 Grimmauld Place was invisible. But the Order had a spy in its midst. It was too risky to return.
Ginny held out her elbow expectantly.
“No, we can’t Apparate again. They’re tracking us. They probably already know we’re here.”
“But how? You’re of age. They aren’t tracing your magic anymore.”
“But you aren’t. I just Apparated an underage witch. I’d be getting an owl from the Ministry right now if it wasn’t…”
Ginny looked up, spotting the sign for the Victoria tube station down the block. She held onto Harry’s hand and started walking. “We’ll take it slow. Scope it out. Maybe some of the others will go there, too.”
“None of them are that stupid,” Harry said under his breath. Ginny heard him anyway, even over the sound of her heels clapping onto the pavement and the constant rumble of the city.
“I prefer to call it ‘brave’,” she called behind herself.
Harry and Ginny rushed down the left side of the escalator that led to the London Underground, passing people on the right who were happy to let the machine do the descending for them. They inspected the large, wall-mounted system map until they found the correct trains to take for Arsenal Station, which was only a few blocks from Grimmauld Place. Then they came to the turnstiles.
“We don’t have any Muggle money,” Ginny whispered. Harry turned up the side of his mouth and muttered a simple spell, keeping his wand in his robes. The turnstile started blinking with errors and unlocked. He and Ginny slid right through before the attendant could emerge from his booth.
“Muggle electronics don’t work around magic,” Harry explained.
The station was a maze of corridors and stairs. Harry and Ginny were bumped into by people who had taken the wrong turn and were busy looking at the directional signs. They reached their platform just before the train departed, with its doors sliding closed and a robotic voice reminding them to mind the gap. The only seat left was at the rear of the car. Harry and Ginny both looked at each other before Harry exaggerated a wave of his hand at the plastic chair. Ginny curtsied and sat down, turning away from him to giggle.
It was Saturday night and the car was full of people on the way to or from having fun. Football fans, wearing colorful shirts or scarves, were chanting. Others, in clashing colors, were trying to blend in. Partygoers in smart dresses and coats were huddling closely with their friends or dates. Other, more tired-looking passengers, were wearing work uniforms and had these strange plastic wires coming from their ears, looking as if they wanted to be anywhere but there.
Across from Ginny, an older man in a brown rumpled sport coat, threadbare pants, and well-scuffed shoes was swaying back and forth in his seat. His eyes were glazed over and looked as though they were seeing right through her. Ginny tried to ignore him, but suddenly the man’s mouth dropped and his glare became purposeful and directed at Harry. Ginny started and followed the man’s glare to her companion, automatically reaching for her wand hidden strategically in her stately — and shapely - dress.
Harry’s red hair was starting to fade back into its trademark black locks and stick out at all angles, as it tended to do. It grew back over his ears. The freckles disappeared and his complexion darkened a bit. His eyes turned from brown to their natural brilliant green. He grew a few inches in height before their eyes. And his scar, the famous lightning bolt scar on his forehead known the world over to represent the Boy Who Lived, traced itself back across his skin. Harry, meanwhile, was idly staring out the window at the concrete tube racing by.
“Harry!” Ginny spit in a whisper. He turned. Her eyes were wide and urgent. He shrugged. She grabbed one of her own bangs and pulled on it. In his confusion he giggled, but then understood. He held out one of his own locks of hair and his face matched Ginny’s. She nodded toward the old man, who still looked shocked.
“Gotta lay off the Scotch,” the man muttered to himself. Harry and Ginny both allowed themselves audible sighs before he turned back to staring out the window and she remained staring at him.
“This isn’t how it was supposed to go,” he said softly.
“Yeah, I know. I doubt Bill and Fleur wanted their wedding to be this memorable.”
Harry frowned. “That’s not what I meant. Well, sort of. You were supposed to stay out of it. I was supposed to keep you safe. Ron, Hermione, and I were leaving tomorrow. We were the ones that were going to be in danger. I mean, we didn’t want that. We weren’t going to look for it. But our trip was going to be difficult. It was the only way.”
The only part of his rambling that made any sense to Ginny was the part about the trip. Yesterday, she had managed to get Harry to admit that the three were dropping out of school at Hogwarts. It sounded like a quest, something to do with defeating Voldemort. That revelation was what drove Ginny to practically throw herself at Harry before his birthday party, even though he had split with her. She wanted to give him something to remember her by. She wanted one last time alone with him.
The train took a corner and swayed back and forth. The passengers who were standing swayed along with it. The momentum made Harry bump into Ginny’s knee.
“We’ll find Ron and Hermione. Then you guys can go.” Ginny wanted to be supportive, but she couldn’t help herself from sounding downtrodden.
Harry nodded slowly. “And you’ll go back to your parents.” Ginny didn’t respond.
After a dozen stops or so, the train pulled into Arsenal Station and Harry and Ginny leaped onto the platform, fighting through a wave of people wearing red and white. They took the stairs two at a time up to the street level before slowing their pace. The roads and sidewalks were packed with football fans, with more chanting and yelling at each other. Occasionally, two or more would square off, looking for a fight. Harry grabbed Ginny’s hand and wove her through the crowd.
“I think we found where the football match was,” Harry remarked.
The crowd thinned after a couple of blocks. At the next turn, Harry stopped their progress and peered around the corner of a building. Ginny looked around him. Grimmauld Place was a shabby row of townhouses covered in soot or other grime. One or two had been littered with graffiti. Almost all of them featured at least one broken window. Number twelve, the former headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix and family home of Harry’s godfather, Sirius Black, was situated in the middle of the far row.
Even though no one could be seen, the pair still advanced in a crouch, taking shelter behind a series of Muggle cars. At the last one, Harry halted their progress.
“It looks like the Death Eaters haven’t made it here yet,” Harry whispered.
“I overheard Dad say that the Order put every enchantment on the house they could think of before they abandoned it. I guess they held,” Ginny explained.
“You stay here. I’ll check it out.”
Ginny glared at him. “Yeah, right.” When Harry took off for the front door, Ginny was on his heels. They were halfway across the street before Harry noticed. They reached the door at the same time. Harry rolled his eyes at Ginny and knocked. She giggled, shaking her head.
“What’s so funny?”
“You’re knocking at your own house.”
Harry had forgotten that Sirius had left him the townhouse in his will before he was killed in the first battle of the war against the Death Eaters, in the Ministry’s Department of Mysteries. Harry hadn’t been back here since. He took out his wand.
The lock of the door slid open with an audible click. Harry turned the knob and pushed.
To both of their surprise, the Order had taken to making sure the house remained livable for its new owner, their most important member. Drop cloths were hung from important pieces of art and furniture. Others that Harry remembered from his time at the townhouse had been moved to safer locations. The only thing that betrayed the house’s lack of occupancy was a thin layer of dust.
Harry and Ginny tiptoed through the sitting room to the kitchen, wands at the ready. Nothing. The Order had even done the dishes before they left. They turned the corner to the stately dining room slowly. The cabinets were still full of antique china and crystal goblets. They returned to the kitchen. Harry opened the pantry and found some canned fruit and puddings.
“Hungry?” He asked Ginny as he held up her slender choices. She nodded at a black pudding. He pulled open a drawer, retrieved a spoon, popped open the top, and handed her the can.
“Tank vou,” she accepted, her mouth already full. Harry did the same with the can of pineapple. They ate in silence, leaning against the cabinets and concentrating on hearing anything out of the ordinary. Ginny finished her food first and started climbing up the stairs.
“Wait for me!” Harry called, knowing it was no use. He stuffed one more slice of pineapple in his mouth and jogged after her, but she was already out of sight. Suddenly, a scream came from the bedroom off to the right, the room Ginny would share with Hermione when everyone stayed at Grimmauld Place in hiding. Harry sprinted around the corner.
Black smoke had filled the room and a form was taking shape in the middle — Bellatrix Lestrange, Voldemort’s right-hand witch and most loyal follower.
“STUPE-“ Ginny started, waving her wand in Bellatrix’s direction, but Harry cut her off.
“RIDDIKULUS!” Harry yelled. At that moment, a whole family of black bats emerged from Bellatrix’s nose, swarming her head and making her stumble around the room, waving inconsequentially as she went. Harry flicked his wand and she stumbled back into an open cabinet, whose doors quickly closed behind her. Ginny was still standing at the ready, hyperventilating. When she saw the danger was over, she collapsed onto the floor.
“It was just a boggart, Gin. You remember how much they like hiding in the cabinets here.” She nodded slowly.
“I should’ve thought of that. I was just looking to see if I had some clothes in there. Or Hermione.”
Harry walked over and put his hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay. It’s been a tough night.”
Ginny nodded again. “Bat-bogey hex, huh? For your Riddikulus?”
Harry smiled. “I’ve always wanted to see one. One of my friends is apparently a master, but she never does it when I’m around.” It was the hex Ginny was known for, but she was too preoccupied with the word 'friend' to respond. Harry shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. “Listen, why don’t you get some sleep? I’ll keep watch. Maybe get the wireless out…”
But then yelling started emanating from the ground floor.
“Potter! You half-breed! Is that you? You may own this house now, but the House of Black will always be the sanctuary of the pure! I’ll make your life a living hell! And the little Weasley? She’s here too? That filthy blood-traitor. She’s staining her bloodline by even being seen with the likes of you!”
Harry and Ginny both rolled their eyes, knowing exactly who was speaking. Near the front door, a life-size portrait of Sirius’s xenophobic mother, Walburga. The portrait, covered in black drapery, would come to life at any sharp noise and yell obscenities at the occupants of her former home. Most of the work Ginny, her mother, and others put into fixing up Grimmauld Place when they first adopted it as headquarters had been trying to remove the atrocious artwork, with no luck. It was stuck to the wall with a permanent sticking charm. Even Sirius couldn’t get rid of it.
“Let’s just stay up here for now,” Harry surmised. Ginny nodded.
“We’ll take shifts on watch, Harry. You need to rest, too.” Harry started to protest, but Ginny put up her hand to silence him. There’s not many people who could talk sense into Harry Potter, but she was one.
“Okay, but I’ll take the first one.”
“Fine. Think I’ll go take a shower first.” She smiled at Harry, whose face had turned red. “Any idea where some towels might be?”
“Che-check the linen closet on the top floor. Between Sirius and Regulus’s old rooms,” he stammered in reply. Ginny winked at him, turned, and headed back up the stairs.
She reached the fourth floor of the townhouse and saw the closet straight ahead, between two other doors that were cracked open. To the right was Sirius’s childhood bedroom, while the left belonged to his brother Regulus. Ginny had never been in either. Regulus had died young, during the first war against Voldemort. Even the thought of that room made goose flesh form against her arms. Now the same could be said about Sirius’s room.
She opened the closet and looked for a source of light, finding a swaying cord for a spare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. She pulled the cord and light emerged from above her. She then put her hand on the side of the closet, steadying herself as she crouched toward the towels. As she did so, one of the bricks in the wall pushed inwards. Ginny’s breath caught. The shelf-covered wall of the closet rotated to a 90-degree angle, revealing a short hallway. Ginny looked around her, half-expecting some sort of alarm to go off. None came. She couldn’t help herself. She kneeled to fit through the passageway, struggling about ten feet before coming to a small room that was lit with the same kind of bulb as the closet.
The room featured an antique wooden desk and chair, both ornately carved in swirls and patterns. The stale air started circulating as she entered, as if it hadn’t moved in many years. The desk was covered in papers and featured a heavy, leather-bound book like many that could be found at the Hogwarts Library. She lifted it and gazed at the spine.
Secrets of the Darkest Art
Next to the book was a Muggle map of Europe, with circles around certain cities, some of which had been filled with an X. Ginny turned to the wall to her right, which featured pictures of certain pieces of art and other artifacts. They weren’t moving. Muggle art. She thought she recognized some, but others just looked like crowns, swords, and paintings of women.
“What was Sirius doing with this stuff?” Ginny asked herself in a whisper.
Then she turned to the other wall. Her heart stopped and began shaking, but she willed herself to look closer. That wall was covered in black-and-white photos, taken of a man walking through streets and cities dressed in Muggle clothing, usually carrying some sort of knapsack. He was sometimes looking over his shoulder. Whoever was taking the pictures was seemingly far away from the subject.
Even though he was always wearing sunglasses, Ginny would recognize that face as long as she lived. It appeared in every nightmare she’s had since she was 11 years old.
The man in the photographs was Tom Riddle, the man who would become Voldemort.
“Harry!” She called out the open passageway. “I think you need to see this!”
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Chapter 2: Chapter 2 - Coming to Terms
Author's Notes: A/N - Thanks to everyone who shared kind words about the first chapter. I'm really excited about my plans for where this story goes, but all input is welcome! This one is a shorter chapter, but it just seemed like a natural place to make a break. A larger chapter is coming later this week.
Chapter 2 - Coming to Terms
Harry stumbled into the dim, hidden office, sliding on his knees with his wand at the ready. Ginny scrambled into the far corner, narrowly missing a collision.
"Sorry, Harry. Guess I should've been more specific," she said through shallow breaths. He simply nodded and replaced his wand to the chest pocket in his robes. Once he got his bearings, he looked to the wall opposite him, the one with the frayed pictures of relics and art. His eyebrows knitted together as he glanced at Ginny, then took in the desk. His eyes widened at the book.
"I've seen this before. Dumbledore had a copy in his office."
This made Harry swing around to the other wall, the one with the surveillance photos. Ginny could see the color drain out of his face despite the uneven light. He looked from the photos to the book, then back again.
"Check out this map, too." Ginny held up the European map for inspection. Harry glanced over it before heading back to the pictures of an early adult Tom Riddle sightseeing in major cities around the continent.
"Of course," he whispered. "R.A.B." He turned back to Secrets of the Darkest Arts and ran his fingers over the red embossed leather cover.
"What's R.A.B.? Harry, what is this?"
Harry turned to Ginny as if he had just noticed she was in the room.
"Oh. Umm. It has to do with our project. Ron, Hermione, and me. Wow, she's going to love this stuff." He took one more appraising look of the room. "Tell you what? Let's just leave it alone until she can have a look at it." Harry took a step toward the exit and started crouching to make his way through. Ginny, on the other hand, slammed herself into the desk chair and flipped open the book. Harry turned back around.
"What are you doing, Gin?"
"Getting my own answers. Don't worry. I'm used to it." She tried to look purposeful as she whipped the pages back and forth, but the truth was she had no idea what she was looking at — or for.
"Ginny, come on. It's just one of those things. It's better if you don't know. Less for you to worry about when we go on our trip."
Ginny slammed the book closed. "No, Harry, you come on." It was as if you could see the pilot light ignite in her face. "I get it. I'm not in the trio. I'm not going on the trip. I know you wouldn't have it any other way. But, once again, you've forgotten that out of the two people in this room, you're a stranger to Tom Riddle compared to me."
Harry's mouth opened but nothing came out.
Ginny continued. "Harry, you're one of my best friends. I would do anything for you. I think I've proven that. At the Department of Mysteries — "
"Where you broke your ankle."
"And the Astronomy Tower — "
"Where I gave you Felix Felicis to keep you safe."
If Harry was trying to defuse Ginny, he was doing a terrible job. She took a deep breath before continuing.
"But I can't be lied to anymore. Can't you see that you're causing just as much damage as whatever Voldemort could do to me? At least I can expect him to mistreat me. Look down on me. Every time from you is a new experience." Ginny swung the chair around to the corner, taking the book with her. She willed her shoulders to stop convulsing.
"I'm sorry," Harry managed. Ginny started flipping pages again, more determined, wondering if she should start with "art" or "relics", then cursing softly to herself when she realized there wasn't an index or table of contents. A full minute passed of silence. Eventually Harry went back to the wall with the art pictures, holding up the map to the side. He tried to connect the dots, but it was hard when he kept looking over his shoulder.
"This is how he stays alive."
"What?" Ginny asked without turning around. He's not home and dry yet.
"These might be Horcruxes. Probably. Voldemort. It's really dark magic. He breaks off a piece of his soul and… infects an object. As long as the object is intact, he can't die. That's how he made it through the episode with Quirrell in my first year, and the Chamber of Secrets. How he came back after what happened with me and my parents. All of it."
Ginny swallowed and pushed herself away from the corner, facing Harry, willing him to look at her. He surrendered.
"You were going to hunt them down. These Horcruxes. Make him vulnerable."
Harry nodded to the wall. "Make him human. If he can be."
"And then what?"
He turned to Ginny. "One thing at a time."
Ginny knitted her eyebrows, but didn't want to push it. "Okay. So how many of these… Horcruxes are out there?"
"Slughorn said seven," he responded softly.
Ginny leaned forward in the chair. "Professor Slughorn? What does he have to do it with this?"
"He sort of taught Tom Riddle how to make them. Well, not really. Riddle conned him into it. Back when he was a student."
"In the Slug Club…" Ginny deduced.
"Yeah. Who would've thought that you and I would be in a club whose alumni included him, huh?" Harry asked, turning a half-grin.
"I would," Ginny responded soberly. Harry begrudgingly nodded. "So what, or who, is R.A.B.?"
"Regulus. This has to be his… office or something."
"But wasn't he a Death Eater? Why would he have all this information? Is it a shrine or something?"
Harry crossed the room, back to the grainy black and white photos. He lifted a hand and traced the outline of one that featured Riddle sitting on the edge of an ornate fountain. Even without color, you could tell it was a gorgeous day. Riddle hadn't quite gotten to the point where darkness followed him wherever he went.
"Regulus turned on Voldemort. Probably when he found out just at what lengths Voldemort was willing to go, trying to make a Horcrux. We thought he had only found out about one of the Horcruxes and destroyed it. A locket that belonged to Salazar Slytherin. Dumbledore and I hunted it down before he…" Harry took a pause. "Anyway, apparently it was Regulus who had gotten there first and left us a note, signed 'R.A.B.'. It looks like he knew he had more work to do, though."
Ginny raised herself to stand next to Harry, staring at the same picture with the fountain. It still made her shiver, seeing this face without it moving toward her, trying to pry into her brain and get her deepest thoughts, looking for a path to control. Tom Riddle couldn't hurt her here, but she wondered if there would ever be a time when she could really believe that.
"So one out of the seven are gone?"
"There's only four left, actually. One was a ring that belonged to Riddle's father. Dumbledore destroyed it. The other was the diary."
Harry grabbed her hand and turned her toward him. Her brown eyes were wide. "No. Tom Riddle's diary. That diary, and what was written in it, never belonged to you."
Ginny nodded, just like she had every other time someone tried to tell her that. She flashed to the feeling she had four years ago, waking up in the dark Chamber of Secrets deep within Hogwarts with Harry looking down at her, a diary stabbed with a huge fang of a gigantic snake and the body of the fang's owner lying nearby. She hadn't thought for herself in weeks. Tom Riddle's diary had woven its way into the mind of a scared, sad little girl, trying to find power. It took time, but Ginny came to resolve that she would never show that sort of weakness again. No fear. No sadness. That girl wouldn't even recognize Ginny Weasley now, even if some people still had a tough time separating the two.
She squeezed Harry's hand once, then let go and turned back to the other wall with the relics.
"But that sounds like some personal artifacts. Things Riddle connected with. What did he want with this old Muggle stuff?"
Harry shrugged. "Dumbledore told me that he spent the time between Hogwarts and the first war in Europe. Maybe the first three were his early works. It looks like he was doing more than sightseeing on the continent." He sighed. "We could really use Hermione now."
Ginny gasped. "I completely forgot! We need to find them!" She spun toward the entrance to the office and took stairs two at a time down to the kitchen.
The coverings in front of Walburga's portrait sprung to life again. "Weasley! Get out of my house, you traitorous…"
"Shut up, you sick old bat!"
She pulled an ancient-looking radio off the top of a cabinet. Harry had just caught up when she flicked it on.
"In other news, Gringotts is reporting a galleon-to-Muggle exchange rate of 6.3 per 1000 Muggle pounds."
Ginny collapsed into a nearby chair with her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands. "I'm sure they'll say something."
"Holyhead Harpies beater and captain Gwenog Jones is denying reports that she is considering retirement, even though the team is mired in a record-breaking losing streak. Instead, she says her chaser corps needs to improve - soon. If not, changes will be made and new blood will be found."
Ginny looked up at Harry pleadingly. "Nothing about the Ministry? The wedding?"
Harry shrugged and reclaimed the can of pineapples he was interrupted from finishing, before reconsidering and sliding it to Ginny instead. She smiled and barely tasted the slices as she consumed them.
"I guess the Death Eaters aren't ready to go public yet," Harry concluded.
They waited another 15 minutes, through the weather forecast ("Warm, but you might need to conjure an umbrella") and a review of Rita Skeeter's new biography on Dumbledore that Ginny could barely hear over Harry's incredulous laughing. Finally, Harry put his hand on her shoulder.
"Ginny, go take that shower. Get some rest. I'll keep listening and get you straight away if something comes up." She looked up at him, nodded, and pushed off her knees. Just as she lifted her first step, they heard two loud pops in front of the house. They scrambled to the sitting room, wands out, sliding to either side of the large window that looked out to the street. Harry and Ginny both used their wands to push the heavy curtains away from the clouded window, inching their heads over the window frame.
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Chapter 3: Chapter 3 - The Hero Who Slouches
Author's Notes: Again, thanks so much for everyone's encouragement. I had one commenter say they were worried I wouldn't be able to keep up with this updating pace. I can guarantee that they are right. Work is getting busier and my original fiction keeps getting attention in New York, so things will change. But right now, the words keep coming and I keep posting.
Chapter 3 - The Hero Who Slouches
There were two of them, both eschewing the black hoods and metallic masks that had become the trademarks of the Death Eaters while still wearing black robes. Through her various run-ins with them, Ginny had the deep displeasure of meeting a few, but she didn’t recognize either of these. She was about to bound to her feet when Harry brought a finger to his lips. She gave a tiny pout but remained in her place.
“What if there are more coming?” he whispered. Ginny nodded sheepishly. If they were quiet, they could hear the conversation between the two men.
“Snape said this was the street. Grimmauld Place. But he forgot the number,” the smaller of the two reported. He had sandy blond hair and a scar that ran from the outer edge of his eye to the laugh lines near his mouth. He was referencing a professor from Hogwarts, the one within the Order of the Phoenix who was trying to play both sides. He was the one who killed Dumbledore at the end of last term, sending Harry into hiding and signaling the Death Eaters’ intent on seizing power over the summer, starting with the wizarding school.
“Do you really believe that?” the larger one asked. He was dark, Italian or some other form of Latin. His forehead seemed to take up half his face.
“The Dark Lord believes in him.” The larger man just shrugged.
They wandered up and down the street, seemingly focused on each individual window while betraying their confusion. Ginny’s eyes never left their movements, trying to place them from the attack on the wedding without success. Everything was so chaotic and she had only had a few seconds before Harry pulled her to safety.
Now the two Death Eaters seemed to be pacing without a goal. It was becoming apparent that these were two low-level thugs given the prime assignment of staking out a house where none of the dark wizards thought anything was going on and that, if the wards were holding, they couldn’t even see. Voldemort was just covering his bases.
“So how about that wedding, eh? I think it was the best one I’ve ever been to,” the larger one started with a smirk. Ginny grit her teeth and had a near-stranglehold on her wand. Her knuckles were turning white. Harry could sense her frustration without looking, pushing his hand to the side and leaving it on her knee.
“How many did we end up capturing?”
“We reckon about half. Most of the redheads, except for the daughter. She couldn’t get out of there fast enough with her little cousin or whatever.” Ginny gasped. Even these guys thought she was a coward. She should’ve come back and fought with her family. She wondered what her parents were thinking. Her brothers. She tried to get up again but Harry just held her down.
“Where are they going?” the blond asked.
“They were all taken to Snape. He did his mind reading thing. None of them knew where Potter was and he confirmed it. He sent everyone but the youngest two home. The kids, the youngest boy and that mudblood girl he hangs around with, are going to Hogwarts early. All he said was that there are some chores for them to do there before term starts.”
The men found the nearest bus bench and made themselves comfortable for what they knew would be a long night. Ginny surprised herself with a relieved exhale. Everyone was alive. Then she realized that she and Harry leaving actually protected them. Everyone at the wedding truly didn’t know where Harry was. If they had, the Death Eaters would’ve tortured them within an inch of their lives to find out.
But Ron and Hermione, alone with Snape for a whole month in that castle. No telling what those “chores” might be. Ginny turned to Harry, who she noticed was not as relieved as her. In fact, he was shaking. She grabbed the wrist that was still resting on her knee and dragged Harry across the sitting room on all fours, back to the kitchen.
“There’s nothing you can do,” she whispered to him as they collapsed against the wall, so close to each other that every available inch of their sides was touching its counterpart.
“I need them. I can’t do this without them.”
Ginny looked at him with her lower lip screwed over the top. “I don’t believe that,” she replied softly. “But even if that was true, what are you going to do? Break into Hogwarts and help them escape?”
“I’ve done it before.”
Ginny found herself nodding. Curfews, admonishments, and detentions were mere suggestions to Harry Potter at Hogwarts. He came and went as he pleased, not because it was fun but because he was probably on some sort of mission, saving one person or another. Well, sometimes it was fun. His skills were quite handy when they needed some time to be alone last term. She had followed him to places in that castle she didn’t even know existed at times that would’ve made her mother faint.
“Okay. And where’s the Invisibility Cloak?” Ginny asked. Harry’s head sank even further under his shoulders. “And the Marauder’s Map?”
“Hermione has them. She did the packing for the trip,” Harry said, almost inaudible. “Snape probably has them now.”
“So you’re going to go into Hogwarts with no tools to rescue two people from right under the headmaster’s nose. Two people that are more than capable of taking care of themselves, by the way. Also, in case you forgot, you can’t apparate into the castle. What was that you were saying about suicide?”
Harry jumped to his feet, knocking Ginny over in the process. “I thought you wanted to help. If this is what your help looks like, just stay out of my way!” He bounded up the stairs. The drapes over the portrait flung open again.
“Yoo hoo! Pure blooded brothers outside! Potter and the Weasley girl are in here!” Walburga called. Ginny quickly regained her feet, pointed her wand at the portrait, and called the incantation “Quietus”. Walburga still looked as though she were yelling, but it was only coming at a murmur. Then Ginny cursed herself. Underage magic. Traceable, underage magic.
“Harry! We’ve got a problem!”
But it was too late. Ginny's hand had just reached the carved balustrade of the stairway when the front door of the townhouse shattered into incalculable pieces. The larger of the two Death Eaters sprung through the wreckage and seized Ginny's ankle. He pulled her closer to him and restrained her wand hand with his free arm. Ginny struggled and rolled with no effect. He was close enough for her to smell the fish he'd had for lunch.
The other Death Eater arrived. Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny could see the man's wand pointed at her temple. He dug it into her skin for effect. She could feel the end of it was still warm. He was the one who had blown the door open.
"Where's Potter?" he snarled.
"Get stuffed,” Ginny responded through clenched teeth. The man stamped on the back of the knee being held by the larger of the two Death Eaters. Ginny’s leg slackened immediately as she cried out in pain.
He chuckled. "Stevens, drag her out. Let's get Potter to come out in the open.”
But before the bigger man could get enough leverage, a heavy thud emanated behind the group. One red bolt of light fizzled past Ginny's left ear before the next connected with its target. The leader collapsed sprawled next to Ginny, open-eyed. The other one let go of her ankle and spun toward the source of the light. Ginny took the opportunity to kick the man in a sensitive area. He howled in pain, so much that Ginny couldn't hear her Stunning Spell connect with the man's face. He flew backwards, blocking the doorway.
"Where did you come from?" Ginny asked Harry through quick breaths as he stepped over the bodies.
"Jumped out the window," he replied with a grin, offering her a hand up. She grunted as she reached her feet.
"Are you okay?"
"I’m fine," Ginny replied. She glanced at the portrait. Walburga was gesturing wildly but they couldn't hear anything. "l'm sorry, Harry. I couldn't help myself."
He chuckled. "Which time?"
Ginny's mouth twisted at the corner. "Both.”
"That's what I thought." He reached around and held her around the shoulders. It reminded her of the time she stole one of the experimental products from the collection of her brothers Fred and George, who are noted inventors of items that bring trouble, when she was eight. She was sobbing on the front porch when her father found her sans eyebrows and reached around just as Harry had done. She frowned. Was she just Harry's little sister again?
Harry conjured some ropes and muttered a binding charm. The ropes wound their way around the arms and legs of the two unconscious Death Eaters, then he took their wands away from their outstretched hands and snapped them in two.
"Come on. We've got to go before reinforcements show up. Did you find any clothes?" Ginny shook her head. She'd forgotten that she was still wearing her shiny gold dress from the wedding.
"Okay. Grab everything you can from the hidden office, especially the book. I've got to get some things from Sirius’s room." Harry was bounding up the stairs before she could even nod. Ginny tailed after him, then watched as he disappeared into Sirius’s room. She headed straight into the linen closet and pushed three bricks before finding the correct one. She crawled into the office and found an old briefcase next to the desk made of the softest leather she had ever laid her hands on. She shoved Secrets of the Darkest Arts in first, then went to work tearing the photos of the Muggle relics off the wall. She then spun to Tom Riddle's wall, taking a bit of satisfaction from tearing it apart. Finally, she struggled to figure out how to fold the Muggle map before balling it up and shoving it into the bag.
Ginny pushed herself out of the tunnel and turned left into Sirius's room. She found Harry with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder and a coat covering his torso, staring at two framed portraits on the wall. She moved to stand at his shoulder. The portraits were hung one on top of the other, both the same dimensions. The top was a portrait of the original Order of the Phoenix from the first war against Voldemort. She was drawn to the people who were now gone. Harry's parents, his father looking so much like Harry that it could’ve been magic, standing behind his auburn-haired wife with his hands on her shoulders on the left of the picture. The Longbottoms, parents of their friend Neville, who were tortured and driven insane by Death Eaters. And, of course, Sirius himself.
The bottom portrait made Ginny smile. It was taken two summers ago when everyone was hiding in Grimmauld Place. Even under the circumstances, everyone seemed happy. Almost her entire family was there, redheads dominating the picture. But what made her gasp was where she could find the boy with wavy dark hair and round glasses and the girl with the flaming red hair - they were to the left, in the same position in this picture as Harry’s parents were in the previous version. The only difference was that in the moving picture, Ginny was beaming up at Harry, who was looking down at her and cracking up. She can remember the joke she whispered to him word for word: “Don’t slouch, Potter. People don’t like a hero who slouches.”
Ginny turned to Harry and could see that his eyes were wet.
“We should hide these in Regulus’s office. The Harry Potter Museum will want them one day,” she told him. “And Voldemort is not going to rob me of my chance to be in a museum.” He grinned and reached for the frames. He pulled the top one toward him, revealing a hidden safe.
“Do these people ever just keep things in drawers?” Ginny mused. Harry reached in and pulled out a folded yellow envelope, filled to capacity, then closed the safe. He then lifted both pictures off the wall and handed them to Ginny. “I was kidding…” But she nodded and went back to the office as she said she would.
When she came out, Harry was already at what was left of the front entrance, holding out his hand.
“Stay with me, okay?” Ginny nodded.
They started at a brisk walk in the opposite direction from how they came earlier in the evening. As they reached the first corner, Ginny looked back and found a group of five Death Eaters, their black robes billowing in the wind. She squeezed Harry’s hand hard. He didn’t even need to look back to know it was time to run.
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Chapter 4: Chapter 4 - Pretty Woman
Author's Notes: A/N: I couldn't resist giving Ginny a "Pretty Woman" scene. This is a pretty sappy chapter, but the action and intrigue will come back with a vengeance. Thanks again for all the great comments and follows. My phone buzzing sparks the creative fire. I'm on vacation next week. I'll be writing but not posting. See you next Monday with some more great stuff!
Bonus trivia: Which 90's movie is Harry referencing with The Ritz Hotel?
Chapter 4 - Pretty Woman
Ginny could hear the group of footsteps echoing their own as they made one turn, then scrambled down an alley between two row houses. Harry jumped over a half-height fence before helping Ginny conquer it, which was challenging in the sliver of light the street lamps provided. They avoided someone’s pug in a back garden before finding a gate and emerging back on a road.
“Let’s head back to the stadium and lose them in the crowd,” Harry called. He pulled Ginny to the right. When they turned the next corner, the sound of their pursuers’ footfalls was drowned out by the football match’s straggling fans who were still stumbling out of the neighborhood pubs.
Ginny looked back and found the Death Eaters about half a block behind. Harry pulled Ginny into a group of large men who were only wearing red scarves and shorts, chanting about their victory. Down another block, they found a taxi cab waiting for customers who were still paying their tab in the pub. The wizard and witch dove into the black car.
“The Ritz Hotel,” Harry commanded. The driver raised an eyebrow in the rear view mirror at the two teenagers. Both of whom were too busy catching their breath to clarify. The driver shrugged.
“Yes sir,” the driver responded before stepping on the gas pedal. Ginny turned and saw the group of pub goers chasing after the cab making rude gestures at her. She mouthed “Sorry!”. Past the angry drunks, five black robes were still weaving their way through the crowd looking for them.
Harry and Ginny both laid their heads on the headrests on the seats and breathed deeply.
“That was brilliant,” Ginny remarked to the felt ceiling of the cab. “Hotel, huh?” she continued with a mischievous tone.
“We need to get off the roads. Go somewhere they won’t expect. And The Ritz is the only one I know. Aunt Petunia was obsessed with this film about it.”
Ginny nodded, then looked down at the torn skirt of her dress. She frowned. She had picked out this dress when her and Harry were still going out, just for him, expecting that they would spend the whole wedding together. They would dance and laugh and ignore everyone else. Well, at least they did spend the wedding together.
“If you teach me the mending charm, I’ll fix it for you later,” Harry said without prompting. “That dress is too nice to let it stay like that.” Ginny felt like she would explode.
Harry closed the sliding glass window between them and the driver and pulled the envelope from his coat pocket. He slid his finger under the flap, flattened it out, and retrieved a folded piece of parchment. He flattened that as well and held it up to read before looking at Ginny and moving it to the middle of the seat so they could both see. Her heart fluttered. He’s learning.
“His will said that if I ever need anything, just check the best pictures in the whole house,” Harry explained.
If you’re reading this, I’ve gone. Know that I died doing what I swore to your parents I would do: protect you. I have no regrets about that. Well, maybe one - that we didn’t get to spend more time together. Know that the times we did have were some of the best of my life. I got my best friend back. I thought your father was gone forever. It turns out he’ll live on through you. Hopefully for a long, happy life with people he loves and who love him in return.
If you have this, it also means you have read my will and that you’re in trouble, but there is no surprise in that. You should find some help here. The card is tied to a Muggle bank account attached to the Black family vault at Gringotts. The books are Muggle passports that modify themselves to whatever identities you need. I think you know the incantation.
Be careful and do not be afraid to rely on the others. They only want what’s best for you - just like me.
All my best, with love,
Ginny could hear Harry give a sniff as he folded the letter back to its original state. She herself wiped a tear from the crook of her eye. He then spread the envelope apart. Ginny could see a large roll of Muggle pounds wrapped in a ribbon, a shiny black plastic card, and three small red books. Ginny understood that Sirius meant the other two passports for Hermione and Ron and darkened.
Harry pulled one out and flipped it open. It was blank. Ginny could see his eyes narrow. Then he had a revelation. He pulled out his wand and held both the book and the wand low under the front seat of the cab so the driver wouldn’t see.
“I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good,” he whispered and tapped the book. He flipped it open and showed Ginny. The pages had filled, including a picture of Harry that looked remarkably like a picture from Azkaban but in color.
“That’s horrible!” Ginny exclaimed through a giggle. Then she noticed the name. “Arthur Sirius James? My dad, too?”
“Those were the only names I could think of.” She couldn’t help but reach over and grab his hand. He moved it to his knee.
Maintaining her hold on Harry, as she was accustomed to doing these days, she turned to the window to watch London streak past her in the middle of the night. It was barely-lit neighborhoods where newspapers were being delivered to ethnic streets setting up for the morning’s market. Finally, the lights turned posh. Smartly-dressed people emerging from bouncing, glittery night clubs walking toward cars that looked like space ships. Then came fences. Lots of fences, designed to make sure everyone knew their place. Ginny’s knowledge of Muggle London came from her yearly trips between her dad’s office at the Ministry to King’s Cross Station to catch the Hogwarts Express. On those trips she was preoccupied with protecting herself from the barbs her brothers would fire at her and each other, putting out any damaged feelings that may have been injured, and trying to casually notice if Harry Potter was looking at her. She found the pressure of humanity in the city, as a country girl, to be both stifling and exhilarating.
Suddenly, the cab eased up to a bright stone and glass building, with twinkling lights that seemed designed to trick everyone that it was still daytime. Harry slid out of his side and hustled around the cab to help Ginny out of her seat. Her eyes were magnetized to look up at the grandeur while Harry started making progress toward… what is that?
Thick glass sheets were arranged on a wheel, which spun sideways at a consistent speed. Every time one of the pieces of glass moved from outside to in, a “whoosh” was audible throughout the sidewalk. Ginny’s eyes were as wide as her mouth.
“I think it’s the door, Gin. I think we jump in between the walls.” She nodded and grabbed Harry’s hand as a lifeline. He jumped into the next section and pulled her along with him, just missing her being caught by the upcoming glass wall. The section wasn’t built for two people, so they were crushed together for the ride. It didn’t seem that either of them minded. Then they reached the other side and tried to emerge looking as if they had done that hundreds of times.
Harry looked around the lobby for someone who knew what they were doing while Ginny couldn’t help but stare at the gigantic crystal chandelier. It seemed to take a small bit of light and turn it into countless rays. Was it magic? She rotated around the crystal, trying to find the wizard behind the work. She could vaguely hear Harry begin his business with the front desk.
“I’m sorry. We don’t have a reservation, but I was hoping for a room for the night.”
“That may be possible, Mr…”
“James. Arthur James.” Harry extended his hand, which the clerk, whose nametag identified him as “Roger”, reluctantly accepted. He started pushing buttons under his desk, each salvo sounding more expectant than the last.
“Here we are. Would you care for a suite or a single room, sir?”
“Ummm, a suite is…” Apparently they didn’t cover this in Aunt Petunia’s movie.
The clerk failed to conceal a condescending giggle. “A suite is multiple rooms. A sitting room, bedroom, and bathroom.”
“Oh. Yeah. That sounds good.”
“Wonderful. And your identification, please.” Harry handed him “Mr. James’s” passport. More pushing of buttons. “All I need is method of payment.” Harry handed over the black card, holding it between his fingers. The clerk looked at the card, flipped it over, then excused himself. He walked behind the counter and picked up a telephone. Harry just shrugged at Ginny, who returned to inspecting the chandelier. The clerk hung up the phone and returned to his desk with a frown on his face.
“I’m afraid we can’t accommodate you at this time.”
“What? Why?” By then, Ginny had turned around.
“The name on your payment card doesn’t match your passport. How did you come by this card?”
“That’s none of your concern,” Ginny barged in, her eyes becoming darker with every syllable.
“It is if I’m to accept his payment, miss.”
Ginny leaned over the desk and motioned for the clerk to follow her. Harry leaned as well.
“Do you know who this is?” Ginny began.
Harry pulled at her dress. “That’s not going to work here, Gin,” he breathed.
She ignored him. “Do you know the Prime Minister?” Ginny started at barely a whisper.
“Not personally, no, but I know of him.”
“Do you know his sons?”
“He doesn’t have any sons.” The man sounded as if he would rather be anywhere else, even in Azkaban.
“He doesn’t have any sons that you know of,” Ginny said, looking toward Harry for the clerk to get her meaning.
“Are you telling me…”
Ginny nodded. “It’s a matter of national security. The PM wants to keep his family out of the papers. Therefore the mismatching forms of identification. Meanwhile, we’re more than happy to make sure the papers know The Ritz does not support the security needs of the nation and, frankly, the government as a whole. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
“Well, hold on…” the clerk interjected, flustered. Ginny raised an expectant eyebrow. “Let me see what I can do.” The clerk retreated back to the other room, where Ginny noticed him taking a few deep breaths, not hitting buttons or getting on the phone. After a few moments, he slid in just as if nothing had happened.
“A suite you said, right, sir?” Ginny smiled.
“Y-yes. Thank you.”
“And will that be one bed or two?” Ginny could see Harry gulp and struggle for air.
“Two. And that’s terribly presumptuous on your part,” Ginny answered.
“Of course, madam.” More typing. “Two keys?”
“What do you think?”
Soon, the clerk handed over the keys to suite 720 and started listing the considerable amenities of the hotel, including the room service and the 24-hour concierge, who was apparently some person that does anything you need, sort of like a house-elf.
“Can you call the concierge over, please?” Harry asked. The clerk pointed at someone across the lobby and beckoned over a short, precocious-looking woman in shoes whose heels clacked around the marble floor as if it needed to be known where she was at all times.
“This is Emily, our excellent concierge. This is Mr. James and his…” the clerk introduced.
“Assistant,” Ginny corrected.
“How can I help, Mr. James?” Emily asked with her hands knitted together on the counter.
“We seem to be short of clothing for our upcoming travels. Is there a way we can shop without having to leave the hotel. My assistant,” he looked at Ginny with a wink, “and I are trying to keep a low profile.”
“Of course! What you’re looking for is a personal shopper. Christopher is wonderful! I’ll send him to your room tomorrow morning. What time works best for you?”
Harry and Ginny looked at each other. “10?” they said simultaneously.
“10 o’clock it is.” Emily fished a business card out of her breast pocket and made to hand it to Harry before reconsidering and offering it to Ginny instead. “If you need anything else, please don’t hesitate to call.”
Harry and Ginny lifted their bags off the floor and made their way to the elevator. Ginny hit the button for floor 7 and the doors slid open. Once they were both in, Harry grabbed her in a hug around her waist, lifting her up and twirling her around.
“That was brilliant! Where do you come up with this stuff?” Ginny was too busy laughing to respond.
Once the elevator arrived at the 7tn floor, Ginny and Harry walked down the hall toward their suite.
"Harry, did you mean what you said back there? That we’re going to be traveling? That I'm going on the trip?"
He stopped and turned, looking directly into her hopeful brown eyes. "l'm sorry I've been such a prat today," Harry began. "It took a lot to convince myself that breaking up with you last term was the right thing to do. To keep you safe. It hurt."
"So did being broken up with," Ginny said softly. Harry nodded.
"But as soon as we were around each other again, the feelings came right back.Then my birthday and Ron yelling at me."
"That git needs to mind his own business. Or get some business of his own to mind,” Ginny broke in, her face reddening.
Harry chuckled. "But nothing changed. We were still going on the trip. I was still leaving you. Then the wedding. It all happened so fast. And Grimmauld Place. And here. I wouldn't have made it without you. So yes. You're coming. I wouldn’t make it a week without you.” Ginny was worried that her rib cage could no longer contain her heart. Harry looked down at his feet. "If you want to, that is." Ginny grabbed him by the neck in response.
"Let's go check out this suite!” she whispered.
They found the door and clicked it open. As they entered, electric light filled the room. The first door was the bathroom. Ginny peeked in, just enough for it to register as bigger than the sitting room at the Burrow. She spun out to the sitting room, running her fingers over the brown leather couch. Harry was leaned in the corner with a grin on his face, watching red hair flicker from one feature to another.
"Harry! Is that a...CV?" she asked, pointing to a dark glass box in the corner of the room.
He giggled. "TV. Television. But yeah."
"And you can watch anything you want?"
Ginny’s eyes widened. "How does it work?" Harry picked up a small plastic rectangle and held it behind his back.
"We need sleep."
Gunny turned her bottom lip. "Five minutes?" With a wave of his wand, the remote control vanished. Ginny's face expanded to a full pout, but she moved into the bedroom. Two of the most comfortable beds Ginny had ever seen greeted her. They had already been turned down with a chocolate on each pillow. Ginny picked hers up and made a spectacle of unwrapping it and placing it into her mouth. Harry swallowed.
"Okay. I get the bathroom first." Ginny called as she jogged out of the room. A few minutes later, she emerged wearing a hotel bathrobe and bounded onto the bed.
"Don't worry, Potter. I've got the same knickers on that I had with the dress." What she didn't mention was that the gold dress didn’t require a bra.
"Oh. Umm. Good." he replied. He was already cocooned in his sheets and had removed his glasses to the nightstand. He reached over and turned out the lights.
"Good night, Ginny."
"Good night, Harry.”
But after a few breaths. Ginny needed another question answered.
"Why did you pick me? To Apparate from the wedding? Ron and Hermione were dancing, not far away. You could've grabbed them.”
Harry expelled a cloud of air. "Instinct, I guess." Ginny hoped the smile that she developed would stay through her dreams.
But that wasn't to be. About an hour later, Ginny was awakened by grunting and mumbled speech from Harry's bed. As she tried to sort what was going on, he started writhing around as well, twisting himself in his sheets and knocking pillows to the floor. Ginny couldn't help herself. She rolled out of her bed, slid into his, and wrapped his arms with hers. Almost immediately, the rustling stopped and Harry started to breathe regularly again. It was the sound that returned Ginny to slumber.
When Harry eased his eyes open in the morning, he was greeted with the sight of Ginny sitting at the desk, her long legs crossed over another chair, her hair wet. She had Secrets of the Darkest Arts open in her lap and a notepad to her side.
"Good morning!" she said brightly. Harry mumbled a reply. "I have good news! I'm now a master of the dark arts."
"I've been sleeping that long?" he mused as he reached for his glasses. With good sight, the view was even more stirring.
"Hurry up and eat breakfast." Ginny ordered, tossing her head to a cart filled with pastries, coffee, juices, and fruit. "It was amazing! I just had to push some numbers on that telebone thing and the cart just showed up. Their house-elves are really on top of it."
"It's just more Muggles who cook the food and bring it to you," he corrected her as he chose a strawberry Danish.
Harry poured a coffee and moved behind Ginny, looking over her shoulder at the ancient book. "So what have you learned, master?"
"Some of these spells can only be described as disgusting, no more so than what is needed for a Horcrux. Ritual sacrifice. Blood. Dark incantations. No wonder that's where Regulus drew the line."
"I know," Harry said in a low tone. "I saw one last night."
Ginny turned to him and reached for his hand. "That's what the dream was about?"
"I don’t just have dreams. This was a memory. It was Tom Riddle making one of the Horcruxes."
"Which one?" Ginny asked. Harry crossed over to the table where Ginny had spread out all of the photos. He slid one out.
"This one. The bloody sheet. He killed a security guard and used him in the process."
"That's amazing!" Ginny exclaimed. "I mean, terrible. But we have one confirmed. Three more to go. Is that the guard’s blood?"
“No. It was there before the curse. It’s the blood that makes it special to the Muggles.” Harry took a bite of his Danish. "But there's a problem that I thought of after the dream." Ginny looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "We need to destroy them. That was fine when it was Tom's old knick knacks. But these items basically created Muggle history, at least in Europe. If we destroy them..."
"The Muggles will want war." Ginny finished. "And that's what Voldemort wants, too."
Harry's mouth formed into a grimace. "It’s genius, really. The Muggles do his dirty work and protect the artifacts. If we get to them, we stir up the wasp nest. He's always one step ahead!" he exclaimed, slamming his hand down on the room service cart. Ginny grabbed his wrist and looked deep into his eyes.
"So we’ll find a way to reverse the spells without harming the objects. You found a way to kill a giant snake with no help from me. You got me and everyone else out of the Department of Mysteries. We'll figure this out. Give it some thought. But Christopher will be here in 10 minutes."
"The shopper bloke. I can't wear a bathrobe everywhere."
Right on time, a short black man in a beret with a feather protruding out the back was at the door. He floated in and offered a hand to "Mr. James" before turning to Ginny.
"Oh my. These are the easy jobs. The ones where I have such a beautiful woman to work with that no one notices the clothes anyway. Isn’t that right, Mr. James?"
"I couldn't agree more,” Harry replied. It felt like Ginny's face might burn right off.
Christopher took Ginny's hand and kissed it. "And you are?"
Christopher's jaw dropped. He turned to Harry. "Never let her call herself 'Ginny' again," he commanded. Harry nodded, fully appreciating the scandalized look Ginny was giving him.
"So Emily said full wardrobes for an extended trip, correct?" Harry and Ginny both nodded. Christopher clapped his hands once. "Easy peasy." He crossed to the phone and punched some numbers. "Hugo! I need everything size..." he looked Ginny up and down, “two. Yeah, everything. And for the gent, size medium and suits..." His eyes narrowed at Harry " - 36 slim. 15 minutes.”
14 minutes later, a larger but equally flamboyant man came through the door dragging two rolling, gold racks of clothes.
"Okay, Miss Ginevra. You’re in the bedroom with me. Mr. James is out here in the sitting room with Hugo. Don't worry. You're not his type."
Christopher pushed Ginny into the bedroom so fast she didn't get a chance to say goodbye to Harry.
"Okay. I'm thinking summer outfits. Are you going anywhere cold?"
"I don't know. Probably." Ginny answered.
"We'll definitely be moving around a lot."
Christopher nodded. "And eveningwear. You'll be going out a lot, right?"
"I hope so..."
The stylist gave her a knowing smile. "Now let's talk unmentionables."
"This is all I've got with me," Ginny replied, raising the hem of the bathrobe.
"Umm, I see. And when it comes to that, are you more conservative or willing to take a risk?"
Ginny blushed. "I've never really had a reason to be risky."
Christopher looked behind him to the door that led to the sitting room. "Well, you do now.”
Ginny felt her face flush. "Oh. I mean… we're just friends. Well, it's complicated."
"It always is, sweetie," Christopher replied with a sardonic smile.
The next hour was a whirlwind, with Christopher throwing Ginny blouses, skirts, dresses, and underwear and she struggling to put them on, twirling around, and waiting for his verdict. Some passed. Most failed. Every time she looked in the mirror, she had the uneasy feeling that it wasn’t Ginny Weasley looking back at her. What if this wasn’t the Ginny that Harry had feelings for? Was he trying to turn her into something she can’t be?
On one particular green blouse, the vote was split. Christopher was in love and Ginny hated it.
"Go see what Mr. James thinks. If he can't talk straight, we keep it.”
Ginny fought, trying to pull the neckline to an acceptable level and failing. She padded out, where Harry was being measured for a suit.
"What do you think?" she asked. Harry turned around and dropped the measuring tape he was holding for Hugo.
"Oh. Oh, yeah. Umm. That's..." Ginny waited a few seconds in vain for Harry to finish his thought before turning back to the bedroom.
"Told you," Christopher said smugly. She made a begrudging show of putting it in the “keep” pile, thinking to herself that she would save the blouse for a really special occasion and, until then, keep it somewhere she didn’t have to look at it.
When everyone was done, Hugo brought up some luggage and Christopher presented Harry with the bill. Before he could sign it, Ginny looked over his shoulder.
"Harry!" she whispered. But he handed over the black card anyway. After rounds of hugs and handshakes, the stylists were gone. Ginny rounded on Harry.
"Are you daft? That cost more than my dad makes in a year. Ron told me you have some money, but that you don’t care about it. That's way too much."
"We need clothes, Ginny - Ginevra." He smirked. "In some of these places, we're going to need to blend in. It's a lot easier to get into places if you look like you belong there.”
She collapsed into an armchair. "But Harry, I felt like someone else in there. This stuff… it isn’t me. You know money doesn't mean anything to me. I would help you just in that bathrobe if I had to.”
Harry smiled and reached for her hand. "I know. And you'd look just as beautiful. I know better than to try to change Ginny Weasley into anything she’s not. I’d rather wrestle Aragog without a wand. Besides, it wasn't my money. It's Black family money. Think of it as Walburga paying us back for all the times she yelled at us.”
At that, Ginny giggled. Harry went back to the desk and flipped open the book again.
"And I had an idea about our Horcrux problem."
"What is it?"
"We need an outside opinion. You're not gonna like who from.” She narrowed her eyes at him and looked down at the book. He had turned to a picture of a man, young and blond and full of energy. She recognized him but couldn’t place him. Ginny was going to ask Harry about the picture, but he was already on the phone to Emily.
"Hi Emily! Yes, Christopher was fabulous. Thanks so much. If you don’t mind, we need two flights to Munich. Yes, soon as possible. First class? Does that mean they teach you how the airplane works and stuff? Is there a test? Oh. Ha! Of course not. No thanks... Oh, yeah I'd guess you need that. Can I call you back? She's in the shower and I don't know her middle name. Okay. Bye."
"What's wrong?” Ginny asked. Harry went back to the envelope and pulled out another blank red book.
"Hope this works. We can't risk you doing the spell.” Ginny nodded.
"She solemnly swears that she is up to no good." Harry muttered as he tapped the passport with his wand. Ginny flipped open the book. Harry looked behind her.
"No fair! You look good in any picture!" She struck her tongue out at him. Then Harry noticed the name. "Lily Molly Evans?"
"I didn't know your mum's middle name," Ginny explained.
Harry paused. "Neither do l.”
It only took half an hour for Emily to arrange the tickets and a car to take them to Heathrow. The plane left in a couple of hours.
"I can't believe we're going on one of those things." Gummy murmured, her gaze never leaving the scenes of London that were passing by. "You're sure they're safe?"
"I think so. Muggles love them.”
But when they pulled up to the airport, "love" was the last word to come to Ginny’s mind. People yelling at each other. Others cutting in line. Helpers forced to keep smiling even though someone was swearing them. There were people crying all over the terminal. It looked like torture, like a giant room full of Draco Malfoys. Ginny was just about to turn back when Harry grabbed her hand.
"This is us," he said as he steered her toward a line with a sign that read "Immigration - EU" and pictures of flags, including Germany’s. As the line inched forward, Harry dug around in the envelope for his and Ginny's passports. When they reached the desk, they were greeted by a large, intimidating black man in brightly colored robes, jewelry, and a shaved head.
"And where are we heading today, Mr Potter? Miss Weasley?" He had even gone to the trouble of getting a nametag that read "Kingsley".
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Chapter 5: Chapter 5 - The Night Flyer
Author's Notes: The vacation was indeed productive, starting with this chapter. It's another place where the natural break came earlier than I want, but I loved the scene. The next chapter is much longer and has a lot more intrigue. Again, thanks for reading and commenting
Chapter 5 - The Night Flyer
"Well, that was a short trip," Ginny whispered to Harry as she followed him down a tight hallway, far from the view of the other travelers in the airport's terminal. They were both following Kingsley, single-file and lock-step. At the last metal door, he ushered the teenagers into a tiny white room with only a desk and three chairs. With Kingsley's size, there was hardly room for anyone to move an elbow off an armrest.
"What were you two thinking?" Kingsley asked in his agitated voice, which was like most people's voices when they were discussing the weather. Still, it made Harry and Ginny wince. They knew the difference in the now leader of the Order of the Phoenix. After Dumbledore's death, he was the best-positioned member due to his work in the Ministry's Department of Magical Law Enforcement as an Auror. Of course, he would probably be going into hiding soon now that Voldemort was his boss.
"You didn't see what it was like! Everyone screaming and dodging hexes. We did what we had to do," Ginny emphasized. "I'm lucky Harry got me out of there when he did." Harry put his hand on her armrest, purposefully missing her hand. She immediately calmed herself, just as Harry knew she would.
"It's my fault, Kingsley. I knew they would be coming for me. I grabbed the nearest person I could and Apparated. I wish I could've Apparated everyone."
"I'm not talking about that. I would've done the same thing. That's why I sent the Patronus. I'm talking about going to Grimmauld Place. It was too dangerous. Too risky. I'm talking about two instances of traceable underage magic when the Ministry was already compromised…"
"That was my fault. Don't blame Harry," Ginny cut in. Kingsley simply raised his hand.
"You're lucky those reports still come through my office. When I saw them, I called your father and anyone else from the Order I could reach. You were already gone, but we saw your handiwork. Those two Death Eaters are in an Order safe house now. Tonks is interrogating them but isn't getting anywhere, last I heard.
"You should've seen your father, Ginny. After we were done, he spent all night in my office waiting for anything else to come through about you two. He was sure the next report would be your capture - or worse. But nothing arrived and when the sun came up, I was able to convince him to at least go to his own office and get some sleep. I had to go to Downing Street for the Prime Minister."
Harry's breath caught.
"He and I have become friendly, so when he gets an alert this morning that someone was impersonating one of his children at The Ritz Hotel last night, he let me have a look. I had to tell him who you both were to keep him from sending his people after you. His police - Scotland Grass or something - would have been a lot less forgiving than me."
"That was my fault, too, Kingsley." He and Harry both looked at Ginny, one with a look of frustration and the other a look of fear.
"Ginny," Harry breathed out of the side of his mouth. She knitted her lips back together. Kingsley made his fingers into a pyramid and laid them on the desk.
"I bet you don't remember when we first met, Ginny." She narrowed her eyes at him.
"You were about eight or so. Fred and George had fed something to Ron that made fire come out of his… rear."
"I remember that! Mum had to put a cooling charm anywhere he sat for a month," Ginny explained to Harry through a chuckle. "But I don't remember you being there."
"Ron had to go to St. Mungo's, who called us. No charges, just a simple report. I was the new man in the office so they sent me out to the Burrow. You were already asleep when I got there. Anyway, I finish my report and your father invited me out to the porch for a butterbeer.
"I was still young, not really thinking about having a family. But it amazed me how he was handling seven children, especially when two of them were Fred and George. So I asked him how he did it and he said the things you would expect him to say…"
"There's no such thing as not enough love. They're all special, etc.," Ginny mock-droned in an eery impersonation of her father. Even Harry chuckled.
"Right," Kingsley continued. "Then we hear the door to the shed open, some rustling around. I make to pull my wand and Arthur waves me off. We hear something that sounds like someone kicking off with a Quidditch broom." Ginny turned iridescent red.
"It was too dark to see who it was, so I asked him if it was Charlie. Everyone knew about him. He was already playing for Gryffindor, setting the records Harry would come along and break. Arthur just shook his head, pointed into the night sky, and said 'She's the one I worry about the most. When her time comes, she will have survived six brothers. She'll think she'll be able to survive anything.'"
"He knew about me flying at night?! All this time? And he didn't say anything?"
"Of course he knew. You think that was the only time he had a nightcap on the front porch? And what impressed me more than that was that he never told your mother. She's an… intimidating woman." Both Harry and Ginny nodded in reverence.
"So, you're both smart. You can probably tell that I'm just stalling for time until he gets here." Harry and Ginny both grimaced, anticipating the screaming. "I'm going to recommend that he takes Ginny home until the new term at Hogwarts starts and doesn't let you leave his sight until then. Harry, you're coming with me to a secure location. Hogwarts isn't safe for you anymore."
Kingsley raised himself out of the chair gracefully for a man of his size. "In fact, I think I hear Arthur now." He squeezed over to the door, opened it, then pulled it shut again, turning to Harry. "And, Harry, if I were you, I wouldn't worry about what he has to say about the running away, the magic, or the Prime Minister. I'd worry about his thoughts regarding you taking his daughter to a hotel for the night." With that, Kingsley glided out. Harry gulped. He could see Ginny grin in the corner of his eye.
"Don't say anything," Harry warned her. "If I'm lucky, I can talk him into taking it easy on you. He might let you out of your room this month if I take the blame."
"But that's not right, Harry! I made the mistakes! When are you going to stop thinking everything bad that happens in the world is your fault?"
"When that stops being true," Harry said softly. Ginny just shook her head.
They both spent the rest of the time staring at the wall opposite them. When Arthur Weasley bounded in, they both jumped a few inches in their chairs. He fell on top of them, one arm around each neck.
"Merlin! You don't know how you both worried us! Your mother has nearly gone around the bend."
"Where is she?" Ginny asked.
"Back home. Last I heard, she was putting a few new locks on your bedroom door." Ginny groaned.
"Sir, it was all my fault…" Harry began.
"Saving my daughter's life? Yes, it was your fault. Thank you, Harry."
"But… running around Muggle London? The magic? The… hotel," Harry winced.
"Enough about that. No one got hurt, except for those two other blokes. I reckon we've got about two minutes to get you out of here and on that airboat."
"What?!" Both Harry and Ginny could've passed out.
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Chapter 6: Chapter 6 - Off Solid Ground
Author's Notes: A/N: I love how even though Chapter 5 was the shortest, it was also the best-loved. There's definitely a soft spot for Arthur out there. You get another taste here. By the way, I'm still looking for a beta. If interested, drop me a line.
Also, last week someone nominated Hiding in Plain Sight for Best New Story. I lost the email, otherwise I would thank you properly. But know that even though on that day I was on a beach in the Virgin Islands sipping daiquiris, that was still the best part of my day. Thanks so much!
Chapter 6 - Off Solid Ground
Arthur kneeled down as if drawing out a plan in the dirt. "You weren't going to Munich to run away. You were running to something, right?" Harry and Ginny looked at each other. When he nodded to Arthur, she did, too.
"It's Dumbledore's mission. The one you were taking Ron and Hermione on. Why you dropped out?"
"Yes, sir. But I… we have more information now. It shouldn't take as long. But the less you know about it, the better," Harry explained.
Arthur laughed. "You don't have to tell me that, dear boy. I found it rather comforting not knowing anything last night. Frustrated Snape to no end, though. That was also comforting. I just wanted to know you two were alright. Everything else, I couldn't think of two more capable young people." Arthur's face turned from jovial to calculating in an instant.
"Can it end the war?" he asked in a low tone.
"It will end the war, Dad," Ginny said with no hesitation.
"Is it still dangerous?" Harry couldn't get around that truth. He nodded slowly again.
"Then you're going to need help, Harry." Ginny beamed, but Arthur raised his hand. "On a few conditions. One, I don't know how you get out of this place. I'm not worried if Kingsley finds out - I'm worried about your mother. I'd be sleeping out in the shed for a year if she finds out I let you two go. So I didn't. You understand?" They both nodded.
"Two, you find a way to contact us occasionally, just to let us know you're alright. I don't know how. I reckon the Floo network and owls will be monitored, especially when it comes to us. I'm sure you can figure something out." Harry shrugged at Ginny. He had a good point.
"Three, if you find yourselves in Romania, tell your brother to write to his mother more often. I tell you, you two, Ron and Hermione are always getting yourselves in danger and being chased by Merlin knows what, but all she can talk about is whether Charlie is eating enough or not."
Ginny smiled wide and gathered her father in a hug.
"Take care of my baby girl, Harry," he said around a stray wisp of red hair.
Harry smiled. "Of course. But don't you have that backwards, sir?"
Arthur looked from one to the other. "Oh, yes, I guess that's right, considering the history. Sweetie, try to make sure this young man doesn't get himself killed." They ended their embrace reluctantly.
"Okay. I've got some paperwork for Kingsley to fill out. I should only be gone a minute," Arthur said with a wink. He turned and exited the door. Harry listened through the metal until he couldn't hear footsteps anymore.
"You sure you still want to go?" Harry asked Ginny.
"Don't tell me you're getting all soft now, Potter," she replied with a smirk.
Harry eased the door open with barely a whoosh of air. Sneaking around Hogwarts after hours had given both Harry and Ginny plenty of practice in walking silently. The hallway remained just as sparse as when they arrived. They came to the end and found Arthur and Kingsley poised over a spare kiosk, handing a quill back and forth, about five feet away. It wasn't enough space to get past them without the Invisibility Cloak. Beyond them were seemingly endless lines of people waiting to go through tall, open rectangles. Every so often, one of the rectangles would expelled a terrible, shrill noise. Two or three people in uniform would always waddle over to the person standing inside the rectangle and start patting them in inappropriate places. Harry and Ginny retreated into the hallway to reconvene.
"Diversion?" Ginny suggested.
"I don't know. Your dad and Kingsley are too close for me to get a spell off. They would hear the incantation before it even connected."
"What about wordless magic? Isn't that something seventh-years work on in Defense Against the Dark Arts and Charms?"
"I didn't make it to my seventh year, Gin."
Ginny crossed her arms in front of her chest. "You're telling me Harry Potter wasn't working ahead in Defense? I find that hard to believe."
Harry groaned. "Fine, I was practicing a little over the summer. But nothing worked. I couldn't even get a simple Lumos."
Ginny crawled around Harry to take another look at the airport terminal, then returned.
"It doesn't have to be perfect. Just hit one of those beepy rectangle things."
"Didn't you tell me that magic interferes with Muggle electronicals? Make some noise!"
Harry grimaced, but took a few crawl steps back to the corner of the wall. It looked like Arthur and Kingsley were wrapping up their business. The nearest empty rectangle was beyond them by another 50 feet. Harry drew his wand from his pocket, closed his eyes, and thought as hard as he could while trying to precisely capture the correct wand movement. A single arrow emerged from the end of his wand, reached an apex, and spun out of momentum. It ran out of steam but skittered along the vinyl, merely tapping the obnoxious portal rectangle with its feathered end.
The first rectangle started droning even though no one was inside. Some officers scrambled over from another lane, then that lane's rectangle also activated, then the next, and the next. Finally, the lights started to flicker in the tall, cavernous glass space and people started to scream out of reflex. Small children started wailing. Kingsley and Arthur were both drawn into the crowd to try and keep order, although it can be said that Arthur seemed to be shaking his head and murmuring to himself as they crossed the aisles.
Harry reached behind himself, found Ginny's expectant hand, and dragged her across another aisle and under a series of shiny metal tables, scraping their knees along the shiny vinyl floor. They emerged on the other side of the security checkpoint at a run. Just in time for them to reach an automatic door that led to the gates, the electricity came back on. They had just enough room down a hallway to bring their scramble back to a comfortable walk as to not draw attention to themselves. A quick glance at a large monitor at the end of the hallway told them that Munich lay just beyond the door labeled C-34.
They followed large yellow signs hanging from the ceiling until they reached gate C-34, where a lady in a crisp uniform was waiting behind a desk. Ginny could tell that the woman was normally quite pleasant but had reached the end of her patience, much like how her mother looks when Ginny lets her room at the Burrow get too much out of order.
"Mr. James, I presume?" She greeted the couple in a tone that became higher as the sentence progressed.
"Yes…" Harry responded as he let go of Ginny's hand.
"And Miss Evans?" Ginny was looking out the window at all of the airplanes in a row. Harry had to nudge her.
"Oh, sorry. Yes. That's...me," she responded, reminding herself that she was Miss Evans for the foreseeable future.
"Wonderful. We were about to leave without you. Passports please." Harry fished through his coat and found them both. The woman flipped through them and handed them back. "Boarding passes?"
Harry and Ginny looked at each other at a loss. Each one of them motioned for the other to respond.
"Ummm, what are those exactly? You see, it's our first time flying without our grandparents. They died last month. We're on our way now to the funeral," Ginny said as sweetly as she knew how.
"Oh. Dear. I'm so sorry." The lady returned to her helpful, pleasant natural state and started pushing buttons on the board sitting on her desk. In a few moments, something under the desk started making a screeching racket. The lady reached below, pulled out two cards, and handed them to Harry. They both thanked her on the way to the heavy metal door before Harry turned back around, his eyes wide.
"Where's our stuff?"
"Your luggage? When is the last time you saw it?" The attendant asked.
"I don't know. We just got out of the car and came in, then there was this big disturbance and we got rushed…"
The woman returned to her desk and punched a few more buttons. "It's on the plane already, sir."
Harry made a show of straightening his lapel. "Oh. Of course it is." Both he and Ginny stayed in the walkway looking at the woman. She stared back.
"...And it will be waiting for you when you get off the plane in Munich. Just look for the signs that look like suitcases." Harry and Ginny both nodded gratefully, clasped hands again, and made their way down a rickety-looking tube to a cramped door that reminded Ginny of the portrait hole that led to Gryffindor Tower at Hogwarts. Another uniformed woman took their cards and escorted them to the last two empty seats on the plane. One was next to a small round window while the other was between that seat and a man with a scowl on his face, a folded newspaper in one hand, and a red drink with a celery stick hanging out in his other. Ginny could hear his sigh at having to leave his seat to let the two teenagers into theirs.
"Do you want to sit next to the window?" Harry asked. Ginny's eyes lit up as she nodded.
"But are you sure? It's your trip."
"I'm sure we'll have other chances." The fact that Harry said "we'll" was not lost on Ginny. She wanted to try to read his meaning in his face, but she also couldn't help looking out at the men throwing luggage around, the little carts screaming between the wings and tires of vehicles much larger than themselves, and the round spinning source of a tremendous noise.
Soon, there were dings throughout the sitting room (the uniformed ladies called it a "cabin", but it didn't look like any cabin Ginny had seen before) and the airplane reversed, turned, and rumbled for a few minutes, moving along the ground much too slowly for Ginny's liking. The plane stopped for a few moments before everything began to shake and there was an ear-numbing roar from outside. Harry and Ginny simultaneously grabbed each other's hand, strangling until the fingers turned white. Both of them had their mouths open, waiting to scream. Then, the plane pitched upwards, pushing them deeper into their seats and popping their heads against the cushions.
Ginny used a great deal of strength to turn her head toward the window. She saw London fall away, with cars becoming ants moving along tunnels as if in an ant farm, but those tunnels were actually roads. They seemed to be going so slowly. She traced one make a mile's worth of progress from one junction to the next.
A splitting feeling started coming from the inside of Ginny's ears, as if her brain was trying to escape. She turned to Harry and saw that he was gritting his teeth as well.
"What's happening?" she screamed at him, but received no response. There were a series of pops in her ears and the pitch of the noise changed but was still there. In fact, it was louder. All she wanted was for Harry to open his eyes, but it seemed he was trying to struggle through the pain alone. He always did.
The man with the newspaper handed Ginny a green, shiny pack of gum. He mimed that she should put a stick in her mouth. She read his lips say "It will help" and motioned that she should help Harry do the same. She unwrapped the gum and started chewing, noticing almost immediate relief. Harry's eyes were still closed and his teeth were still clenched. Ginny unwrapped a piece for him and held it in her fingers. With her other hand, she kissed her index and middle fingers and placed them on Harry's lips. His mouth automatically relaxed and he looked over. She then pushed the stick of gum in. After a few chews, he smiled at her.
"You were always a better flyer than I was," he said. She grinned and then realized she could hear him again. She handed the man his pack of gum but he waved her off.
"First time, eh?" he asked. Ginny and Harry both nodded. "You get used to it. But always carry gum." They thanked him in turn, then turned to the window. Harry leaned against Ginny's shoulder while she pointed out what she thought certain objects were even though she had no frame of reference. For some, she would ask Harry's opinion, as if he had been outside of Britain any more than she had.
Just as soon as they had gotten comfortable, the plane felt like it was losing speed and pitched down. The pilot came over the speakers and announced something about "final descent", which widened Ginny's eyes. That sounded ominous. Yet both her and Harry couldn't look away from the window as the buildings grew larger, the cars and trucks started going faster, and the ground rose up to meet them before seemingly slamming into the bottom of the plane. It reminded her of one time when she was filling in for Harry as seeker on the Quidditch team during her fourth year and he was serving his "lifetime" ban from Professor Umbridge. She followed the snitch straight to the ground, pulled out of the dive just in time, and ran along the grass with her broom between her legs before pushing off again. Ron had reported after the match that he nearly had a heart attack.
But the plane didn't leave the ground. It slowed, then stopped, then rolled to another metal tube, another large room surrounded by glass, and another collection of people yelling at each other. If it wasn't for the signs in German, Ginny would've thought they hadn't gone anywhere. She spotted the signs with what looked like pictures of luggage and called Harry to follow. After waiting at a rotating belt for what seemed to be ages, they found their bags and made their exit to the taxi stand.
As they queued for the next available taxi, Ginny noticed one in particular that was aggressive in aligning itself with Harry and Ginny's place in the queue. It weaved between pedestrians, cut off buses, and dove into a space, barely missing a collision with another irate driver. Ginny elbowed Harry.
"This one seems to really want to be our driver. What do you think that means?"
Some of the color drained from Harry's face. "I don't know. Feel like finding out?" Ginny shrugged.
When they reached the front of the queue, the driver jumped out of his taxi, jostled over to Harry and Ginny and took their bags, storing them in the trunk. Harry and Ginny hopped across the rear seat while the driver slid into his.
"Herr Potter! It's ein honor to haffe you in Germany!"
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Chapter 7: Chapter 7 - The Ghetto
Author's Notes: Fair warning: I made an attempt at writing German accents. I now have a new appreciation for what JKR went through with Fleur, Krum, and the rest. I'm pretty sure it's how I want it, so don't go thinking there are a huge amount of typos. Other than that, enjoy!
Chapter 7 - The Ghetto
“Oh. Well… thank you very much,” Harry said in an uncertain voice. Ginny, as tended to be the case, was a bit more direct.
“How do you know who he is?” she questioned the man.
The driver started waving his hands frantically. “Oh, I mean no harm, madam. But you can’t zink zat the stories of the Boy Who Lived didn’t make zeir vay across a little bit of sea.”
Ginny softened. “I’m sorry. It’s just that we’re trying to keep a low profile here. I’m Ginny, Harry’s… companion.” The driver winked at Harry through the rear-view mirror. A slight smile formed on Harry’s mouth at the side facing Ginny.
“I’m Klaus. The pleasure is mine. And don’t vorry. Zere aren’t many people left in Germany to stalk Herr Potter. I’ve heard zings in Britain have taken a… horrible turn. I’m sorry. If zere is one wizarding community zat knows vat zat’s like, it’s here.”
Klaus was about Bill Weasley’s age with springy black hair and the eyebrows to match. His beard, on the other hand, was sparse, to the point of making Ginny wonder why he kept trying.
By now, the other taxis had started a cacophony of honking. It turns out Klaus had forgotten to turn out of the taxi stand before chatting to his new passengers. He pulled out and began to swing the car toward the exit.
“Oh ja. So, vere vould you like to go?” Klaus asked once they were about to leave the airport property.
“Nurmengard,” Harry replied. The ease with which he said the word struck both Ginny and Klaus, so much so that the latter had trouble staying in the correct lane. It all hit Ginny at once. Harry had said they needed an outside opinion on Horcruxes. There is only one other living wizard that would’ve dared to even think of such a thing. She could trace the shiver in her spine run from the bottom to the base of her skull. Harry was right; once she knew what they were doing, she didn’t like it.
“Herr Potter, you understand zat Nurmengard isn’t one of zose places you just bop into a taxi and request to go. Although your guess zat it’s somevere in the mountains south of here is probably correct, I myself know no one zat vould precisely know. Certainly no one who has been.”
“Any help you can give will be appreciated. I understand that whole time is a sore spot for your people,” Harry explained.
“Zat is - how you English say? - an understatement. You’ll zee. Zere aren’t very many people still alive from zose days, but I do know vere to find one. Maybe she can point you in the right direction.”
“That would be great, Klaus. Where is she?” Ginny asked.
“The only place for magic ve have left. Just in time, too. It looks like you have another admirer.” Klaus tossed his head to the back. “Grey sedan. About 50 meters. He’s done everyzing I’ve done so far.”
Ginny swung around and studied the car Klaus was speaking of. It was simply in the same lane of the highway with a couple of cars between it and the taxi.
“Klaus, can you weave in and out a little? Maybe even get off on the next junction? See how serious this guy is?”
Klaus moved between some semi trucks, then over to the far-right lane and slowed. The next move put them in the slipstream of the second truck. The grey sedan should’ve been ahead of them. Instead, it was to their left side. Ginny and Harry looked over and saw the man from the airplane, the one that provided them gum.
“He was sitting with us on the airplane, Klaus. Probably just a coincidence,” Ginny reported.
“If you say so, madam. Vas he magical?”
“I don’t think so,” Harry chipped in. “I didn’t feel anything from him.”
“Zen ve’re about to lose him anyvay. Ve’re almost to the Ghetto.”
Further down the motorway, Klaus made an abrupt exit, then a series of high-speed turns as the terrain became steeper. Both Harry and Ginny had perilous views over cliffs. It occurred to Ginny that Klaus wasn't just a reckless driver; he was making sure he wasn't being followed - by anyone.
He slowed as they came to a wall made of wood and metal fence, standing about 15 feet high and ringed with barbed wire. The wall was haphazardly painted with colors and slogans. On either side of the drive were two Muggles dressed in random swatches of green and heavy black boots. They were holding matte black metal cylinders to their chests.
"Those aren't wands, are they?" Ginny asked grimly. Harry shook his head, his eyes never leaving either soldier, especially the one on Ginny's side of the taxi.
"Zey're going to ask zat you perform a bit of magic before zey let us in," Klaus warned.
"Why?" Ginny asked.
"Zey vant to make zure only magical people are inside the valls. A simple Lumos vill do."
Klaus rolled down his window and had a brief conversation with the guard on his side. He and his partner then knocked on the passenger windows in unison. Harry and Ginny, not understanding their directions, pulled out their wands and did as Klaus suggested. Both guards nodded and the gate began parting. Klaus guided the taxi through.
"The original name of the village is Hammerschmidt, but everyone calls it 'the Ghetto' now because zat's vat it is."
"What's a ghetto?" Harry asked.
"Oh, sorry, Herr Potter. I forgot you never had any in Britain. During the last var, one group of Muggles rounded up other groups and but zem all in one place before doing - other zings vith zem. After Grindelwald, the Muggles vere scared and did the zame zing to us."
"But wizards and witches can still leave, right?" Ginny asked.
"No, Fräulein, they can't,” Klaus responded in a low tone. “I have a special permit to take foreigners to and from the Ghetto and the airport." Ginny gasped. Harry fingered his wand more tightly.
"So you knew we were coming! Who told you? Our Ministry?" Harry accused. Ginny could see his pulse rise in his neck.
"Nein! Jawohl! No, Herr Potter. Nothing like zat. I just sit in the taxi line waiting for someone to need me. I recognized you, obviously. Most of the time the Portkey office lets me know ven people are coming.”
Both passengers took a breath. Klaus kept moving the taxi down what appeared to be the village's High Street. Everything looked derelict. Signs looked as though they've needed panting for generations. Many shopkeepers were out sweeping cracked sidewalks by hand rather than using charms.
"People can still use magic in here, though," Ginny asked, leaning forward.
"Oh ja, of course. But vithout a formal school, it's not very advanced. Zere's also embarrassment from vat vitches and visards did during the war. But Frau Strauss is better at explaining zoze times zince she vas zere."
Some children kicked a football down the road in robes that were far more shabby than the worst Weasley hand-me-down. One shopkeeper waved emphatically at Klaus.
"Zat’s Fritz," the driver explained as he returned the greeting. "He runs the book shop. Zat's how I learned English. No German magic books, you zee. Not a very busy shop, but Fritz keeps at it.”
The further they drove the more horrified Ginny became. The Ghetto was like a sketch a small child had done of Dragon Alley or Hogsmeade. Even now, she feels energized when she is in either wizarding community back home. It was the opposite here.
The taxi pulled up to an inn that had a hooked-beaked bird with angry eyes on a sign that proclaimed it "Der Schwarze Adler”. It had two stories made of wood that looked as if it was reused from abused sailing vessels. The windows seemed to be in permanent fog.
"l'm sorry, friends. It's the only inn in the village. Luckily, Frau Strauss owns it, so you von't have to go far to find vat you're looking for. If she even knows, zat is," Klaus explained as he pulled their bags out of the trunk.
"It’s fine, Klaus. Thank you," Ginny assured him. He smiled and pulled the luggage into the inn.
Harry and Ginny were both struck by how similar it was to the Hog's Head, from the dim candlelight to the tables, chairs, and stools scratched beyond repair. The floor hadn't been swept in weeks. The only thing kept in pristine order was the bar, which was almost as shiny as new. That is where the trio found an elderly woman aimlessly wiping down the wood while waiting for customers that were probably not coming.
"Frau Strauss! Jawohl! I've brought you special guests!"
The elderly woman looked up from her task. As she saw Harry and Ginny, her eyes widened and a cryptic smile crossed her face.
"Vill it be vhiskey or butterbeer for our chat, Harry Potter?" the barkeep asked while retrieving three glasses from the shelf behind her. "Or Muggle beer? Germans are famous for it around the vorld, so I'm told. Have you had it before? Oh, and I haven't been introduced to your lovely friend!”
"You haven't been introduced to me," Harry reminded her.
Frau Strauss laughed from deep within herself. "Yes, of course! My apologies, Harry. It is just that Dumbledore talked zo much of you that I feel ve're acquainted already." She held out a
flat hand. Harry walked over and shook it. Strauss wouldn't let go. Harry looked to Ginny, who shrugged. He gave the thin skin a kiss. The woman then held out the same hand for Ginny. This
time, a shake sufficed.
"Matilda Strauss. So, your drinks?"
"Uhh, butterbeer please," Harry answered.
"May I try some of the Muggle beer?" Ginny asked hesitantly. Frau Strauss poured her a half-glass. Ginny took a sip and turned green before choking it down.
"It's horrible! They really drink that?"
"Some people vould say too much, Fräulein Veasley."
"Ginny," she corrected.
"Then I'm Matilda!” She then placed full glasses of butterbeer in front of the couple. They took two stools while Klaus hung back, perching himself at a table by the door.
"You knew Dumbledore?" Harry began, not yet making a move toward his glass.
"Oh yes! He alvays stopped when he was in the village. I was so sorry to hear about his loss. I know you meant a lot to him."
“Me too,” Harry replied. Ginny reached for his hand. She flashed to that day and how Harry wouldn’t leave Dumbledore’s broken body until she came, took his hand, and led him away.
"How often was he here?" Ginny questioned.
“Oh, twice a year or so.”
"Why?" Harry jumped in.
"I think you know the answer: the same reason as you. He said I shouldn't let you see him. He also said I vouldn't be able to stop you."
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Chapter 8: Chapter 8 - Still RecruitingChapter 8
Matilda leaned with her elbows onto the gleaming wooden surface. "The question is vat could Harry Potter possibly have to learn from Gellert Grindelwald. Unless you're here to kill him, in vich you would have no shortage of help vere you to ask."
"No, I'm going to kill Lord Voldemort," Harry responded, stone-faced. "But Grindelwald might have a solution to why Voldemort stays alive. We've figured out a lot of it, but there's still one piece."
"And vat makes you think Grindelwald will help you?"
"We have to try," Ginny resolved.
"Besides, if Dumbledore still came to visit him after all these years, all that anger and destruction, there has to be something still worth talking to," Harry added, more to himself than anyone else.
Matilda grimaced, but nodded. "But before I tell you vat I know — vich is not much — I vant you to hear vat that man really is. Then you can decide whether to call on him.
"Ve're in this place because of Gellert Grindelwald, but I'm sure Klaus already told you that. But he doesn't really know why. Grindelwald believed that magical people vere a… how you say?... evolution from Muggles, and that ve should take our rightful place as masters of this vorld. No more hiding. No more pretending. Many people vere attracted to that basic idea — including a young, naïve Matilda Strauss.
"But as more people believed in the idea, they also believed in him. He used that to his advantage. He vas a powerful vizard, but it vasn't his skills that gave him power. It vas his ability to pollute other people."
"Sounds familiar," Ginny said ruefully.
"Yes, but Voldemort dueled Dumbledore to a draw in the Ministry, remember?"
"So did you, in the graveyard," Ginny grinned. Harry shrugged.
"So, while the Muggles vere having the greatest var they've ever fought, Grindelwald took the opportunity to attack," Matilda continued. "Some say he vas even working with the German Muggle leader, perhaps the most evil man to ever live. They had… common interests. So ven the var ended, Germany lost and the country vas in ruins. Millions of people died. And everyone remembered seeing Grindelwald's vizards aiding the evil Muggles, rounding up and torturing others, so they blamed us as vell. All of us.
"Many vitches and vizards moved away. Some vent into hiding. The ones that could not leave, or did not vant to, vere moved here. As you can tell, they are still frightened of us. They need the valls and the guards to feel safe." Matilda's eyes were starting to dampen.
"Why haven't the other countries done anything?" Ginny asked.
"That is a question for your Ministry now, is it not?"
"I don't think you'll be getting anything from our Ministry anytime soon," Harry said. "Which is why you need to help us. Things wold be even worse when Voldemort takes more and more power. Britain won't be enough for him."
"I know, Herr Potter. I just vant you to know everything. I promised Dumbledore. He alvays vanted to protect you."
"Yeah, that was a bad habit of his," said Harry through narrowed eyes.
Matilda laughed. "One day, you vill grow to understand. Hopefully it is not ven you are as old as I am."
"Thank you, Matilda," Ginny said as she reached over to pat her on the shoulder.
The old woman clapped her hands together, shaking off the tension in the air. "Right. This is all I know, and it could be nothing. There is a… vat you call them?... house-elf! Yes. It comes once a veek to the grocer down the road, Maurice. Apparates. Gets some food. Same every veek. Then leaves. Doesn't say anything. But it's more food than a house-elf needs."
Ginny turned to Harry. "Grindelwald has to eat, right?"
He nodded. "And not even he can conjure food. So what day does the house-elf come to the grocer?"
"You're in luck, my friends. It should be there tomorrow. And, as you can see, I don't get many customers. I have two rooms available. Unless one vill do…"
Ginny thought back to her father's risk in letting them go this morning and felt that she should show some gratitude with modesty — for once. "Two will be fine," she responded, not terribly successful in wiping the disappointment from her voice. She couldn't help but notice that Harry waited for her response.
Matilda told Harry and Ginny that dinner would be served at 6:30 and to spend some time exploring the town. She couldn't help but smile when she came to the word "exploring", knowing there was very little to explore within the walls. They shook hands with Klaus and thanked him for his help. He wished them luck, jumped back into his taxi, and headed for the gate.
"So, what should we do?" Harry asked Ginny as they exited the front door.
She turned to him, her mouth twisted at the corner. "I have a really crazy idea."
"You know those kids we saw when we were coming in?" Harry nodded. "What about an impromptu session of Dumbledore's Army? With some new recruits?"
Harry beamed at her. "That's a fantastic idea! What should we teach them?"
"I don't know, professor," she replied through a grin. "They looked young, like they would be first-years. Something simple."
Ginny pouted. "I'll have you know, Herr Potter, that the bat-bogey hex is not simple. I haven't seen you do one yet."
He laughed. "No one's taught it to me."
"And no one will. I don't want it used against me."
They walked down the dusty sidewalk toward the gate, where the kids were still playing football in the distance. A chill was in the air that Harry and Ginny didn't remember from before. A mist wafted in from the nearby mountains, making the village seem to glow in spite of its condition. After some time with his hands in his pockets, Harry reached for Ginny's hand. Not because they were in danger and needed to run. Just because. She willed herself to keep her breathing leveled.
They came up to the group of children, three boys and a girl. The girl was taller and looked slightly older than the others. They all had blond, shaggy hair, blue eyes, and were red-faced from their game. Harry let go of Ginny's hand and made a woeful attempt to kick the ball when it went astray, only knocking it further down the road. They walked up to the group with Harry's shoulders sagging and Ginny shaking her head.
"I'm sorry about that. I'll get it." Harry pulled out his wand and pointed it down the road. "Accio football!" he called. The ball flew back towards him and bounced once. Ginny caught it with one hand.
"Just like a quaffle," she said with a wink. The three younger kids were still looking from where the ball was to where it came and back again with their eyes wide. The smallest pulled on the girl's robes and whispered something to her in German.
"He vants to know how you did that," she reported to Harry and Ginny.
Harry smiled at him. "Tell him that it's a very useful spell but it takes a lot of practice. If you like, we can teach you some others." The boy translated for the others and they all nodded with smiles on their faces.
"Well, I'm Harry and this is Ginny. We go — went — to a wizarding school in Britain called Hogwarts."
The girl smiled. "My name is Helene, and these are Hans, Michael, and Martin," she said as she put her hand on each head. "Martin is my brother and the others are cousins."
"It's nice to meet you all," Ginny said with a smile. "Do you have your wands with you?"
Helene pulled hers out but the others just shrugged. "Ve only have this one. Ve share it."
Harry and Ginny looked at each other with the same thought: when they get back, some Black family money will be going to Ollivander's Wand Shop. Anonymously, of course.
Harry rubbed his hands together. "Alright, what can you guys do?"
Helene looked down at the ground. "Ve're all pretty good with Lumos. I can do Levitation. That's about it," she mumbled.
"That's a great start!" Ginny exclaimed. "Those are some of the spells they taught us in our first year. Then we got older and we figured we needed to be able to protect ourselves, so Harry started a club to learn some other spells."
"Ginny helped," Harry was quick to point out.
"Anyway," Ginny turned to Harry with an eyebrow raised, "I'm thinking Protego and Expelliarmus? They're the first ones you taught us."
Harry nodded. "Let us show you how they work, then we can get into the incantations and wand movements." Helene relayed all this to the boys, who nodded.
Harry and Ginny stepped away from each other.
"Ready?" Harry called. Ginny nodded.
Ginny's wand flew out of her hand. She Summoned it back to her while the children applauded Harry's triumph.
"Try it again, Boy Who Lived!" Ginny called.
He called the spell again. This time, Ginny met it with Protego. The spell rebounded off the invisible shield and hit Harry's own wand, sending it spinning to the ground.
Starting with Helene, Harry brought each child aside and helped to guide their wand movements for Expelliarmus while Ginny served as a replacement for the dummies they used in the Room of Requirement during DA meetings. It only took about five tries for each student to send Ginny's wand flying away.
"A lot better than Neville!" Ginny called.
"Neville's doing just fine these days."
Then they switched roles, with Ginny trying to disarm Helene and the others while they tried to hold the Shielding Charm with Harry's guidance. That turned out to be much more of a challenge for the children and they were starting to become discouraged. Harry read their mood and Ginny came back to join them.
"You guys are doing great. Don't get yourselves down. Ginny is a very powerful witch with years of training. If you keep working on these, you can be just as good as her. Once you've mastered these, maybe we'll send you some others to try."
"Like what?" Helene asked.
"Oh. Well, there's lots. Hundreds…"
"No, I mean, can you show us? Ve can see vat magic is really like?"
Ginny turned to Harry with a mischievous grin. "We've never dueled, have we? You were always too busy teaching."
"No, we haven't. Do you think that's a good idea?" Right then, Harry realized he had said the wrong thing. Ginny turned on her heel, walked ten paces, and turned back.
"Fantastic," Harry muttered to himself.
He straightened toward Ginny and bowed. She curtsied condescendingly. The duel started as the class had, with disarming charms versus shields alternating between the combatants before Ginny threw a Stunner into Harry's already-weakened shield, knocking him to the ground. He spun out just before another red bolt slammed into the pavement.
Now the geometry had changed and Harry had a better angle, shooting multiple flashes of light at Ginny. It was her natural athletic ability and considerable speed that helped her dodge Harry's onslaught without even raising a shield.
"Reducto!" Ginny called, breaking the window of an abandoned shop and making Harry dive away from his superior defensive position. The children screamed. Ginny was momentarily distracted, enough to be hit with a Tickling Hex from Harry. She writhed in the middle of the street, uncontrollably laughing and using every swear word her brothers had ever taught her at the same time. Harry walked over to her with his hands up, called "Finite", and helped her to her feet. Her scowl could probably be felt all the way back in Britain. He sensed what would calm her down and took her hand again.
"You know, Voldemort doesn't usually use the Tickling Hex." Harry's observation was met with more swearing, some of which he reminded himself to ask her to explain later. He kissed Ginny on the top of the head. "Come on. Let's show them Reparo and get ready for supper."
When they returned, Harry helped Matilda prepare a simple but tasty meal of roast beef, potatoes, and a bottle of wine while Ginny cleaned herself up. She came down in pajamas and wet hair and still seemed a bit sullen all through dinner. Once the conversation inevitably turned to Voldemort and Grindelwald Matilda quickly excused herself, explaining that she needed to be up early to prepare for the breakfast rush. Harry and Ginny both assured her they would clean up dinner, but neither made a move toward the kitchen sink. She found herself staring at the single flame burning from the candlestick in the middle of the table. Harry studied her, finding himself firmly in the grey zone of their relationship — whatever that relationship may be.
"I'm sorry about the duel," he started softly. "But you would've been even more upset with me if I took it easy on you. I know you."
Ginny took a sharp inhale. "I'm not upset about the duel. Well, sort of. I'm not upset with you about it. I thought I did pretty wELL against the most powerful wizard in Britain."
"You were brilliant! I hadn't seen you fight since the Department of Mysteries. You've really changed. Grown up."
"I thought you noticed that a bit last year," she said with a grin. Harry turned red. "But no. I'm upset with myself for getting distracted. I could've held out longer but the kids screaming took my attention away. I can't let that happen again. You're right; Voldemort won't tickle."
Harry picked himself up, moved to the seat next to Ginny, and took her hand.
"You want to know something? I worry about the same thing in myself. I get distracted by you all the time. It's usually a good distraction. Very good, in fact. But at the wrong time, with the wrong person, it could be trouble."
"And you don't think that would've happened if Ron and Hermione were with you now?"
"It's not the same." They locked eyes for what seemed like hours before Harry broke the connection.
Ginny looked down at their clasped hands. "So we practice. Whenever we can. If we can get used to working together, I become less of a distraction during a battle. You wouldn't have to worry about me."
"I'll always worry about you." Ginny nodded and squeezed his hand.
They stared off into space for a while, trying to sort whatever was going on in the room. The silence became too awkward.
"Are you nervous about tomorrow?" Ginny asked.
Harry looked her in the eye again. "We don't even know what will happen. Could be a wild goose chase."
"Do you really believe that?" Harry wrenched his lips and shook his head. "What's he like now? Grindelwald, I mean. The books didn't say much in History of Magic."
"I talked to your Aunt Muriel and Elphias Doge a bit about those times at the wedding. Dumbledore's early life."
"I'm sorry if she said something offensive. Never mind. I'm sure she did."
Harry laughed. "She wasn't that bad. Remember, I was Cousin Barney from your dad's side of the family. Anyway, Grindelwald and Dumbledore were a lot closer than people realized. So when they had their split and then their duel, in a way they both lost. It sounded as if they expect Grindelwald to be a bitter, broken man locked up in his own prison with his former best friend the only one with the key."
Ginny nodded. "And that's who you hope we meet."
"Yeah. I think that version is a lot easier to talk to than the powerful dark wizard who wants one more fight with the Chosen One. But we have to be prepared for that, too. And I can't get over the fact that Dumbledore kept visiting him." Harry started rubbing his temples.
"Me neither. Was it just Dumbledore always seeing the good in people? What if Dumbledore sought him out for advice, like we are? They had to have talked about you. Grindelwald is probably even expecting you."
Harry sighed. "You're right. Even more reason why we need to be on our guard."
Ginny raised herself from her chair with a groan. "I guess I'll get started on the clearing up."
"Oh, don't worry about it, Gin. I'll get it. I'm going to stay up a little longer and read some more of the book. I want to at least seem like I know what I'm talking about tomorrow."
"You sure?" He waved her off. She circled back around and wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Thank you," she whispered, then kissed him on the cheek, letting it linger just long enough not to be misconstrued.
"And, you know, if you want to tickle me all you have to do is ask," she told him with a breathy giggle before padding up the stairs.
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Chapter 9: Chapter 9 - It Sort of Wore OutChapter 9 - It Sort of Wore Out
This time, it was Ginny who had trouble sleeping. She couldn’t fall asleep, waiting for Harry to come to his room after his reading. When she heard his heavy wooden door close, she took a breath and recommitted herself, using everything from counting imaginary Snitches to flipping her pillow every five minutes or so. The only thing on her mind was the wall that separated them. If he had another dream or vision she wanted to be ready for him. So she made her way to the wall and placed her ear to it. Nothing but the sound of soft breathing. It calmed Ginny’s nerves. When she finally started drifting off herself, the snoring began. She shook her head, sleepily.
“And he always blamed Ron. Silly git.”
But even the sound of a saw being dragged against a log kept her mind at ease. She eventually fell into slumber.
Ginny awoke to a pain in her neck she had never felt before, caused by her using a wall for a pillow most of the night. She swore and rolled herself to her feet. She had to come up with creative ways to dress herself without being able to turn her head before heading downstairs. She found Matilda and Harry sitting around the table with eggs and bacon displayed around them.
“Hey Gin! How did you sleep?” Ginny had rarely seen this species of Harry Potter before: chipper. She wanted it to stay forever. On second thought, maybe not. But he did deserve at least a little time before reality came back into view.
“Oh. Great. I think it’s the mountain air,” she replied as she rubbed the side of her neck and tried to turn a grimace into a smile.
“That’s what I was telling Matilda! Maybe that’s why you’ve stayed so young,” he said as he turned to their host. Even the irascible innkeeper blushed.
Ginny poured herself a cup of black coffee and deposited herself into a chair, not yet reaching for the food.
“So what’s the plan, Herr Potter?” Ginny asked.
“Matilda says the house-elf tends to show up around noon at the grocer’s. We get there around 11, have a chat with Maurice, and then hide. We let the elf shop, then confront him. Hopefully he’ll take us to his master.” Ginny nodded and picked one slice of bacon out of the pile. She looked at her watch.
“So we have some time. Any ideas?”
“I did, actually,” Harry responded with a grin.
Ginny ate a little more, then she and Harry helped clear the table and set up the bar for what Matilda believed would be today’s veritable flood of customers. They waved and promised her they would be back to say goodbye, one way or the other, before walking back out to the High Street hand-in-hand.
“I want to check out Fritz’s book shop. Is that okay?” Harry asked. Ginny nodded. They walked the couple of blocks toward the gate, not seeing Helene and the others down the street. Harry held the door open for Ginny.
The bookshop was, frankly, a disaster. Piles and piles of ancient tomes filled the space, leaving only a few channels in which to move. Every breath came with an added bonus of dust, which they could also see moving through the air via an ornate chandelier that looked out of place. As Klaus said, almost everything was in English. There were many books on magical history and Harry couldn’t help but smile at Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. He resolved to find a way to contact Hagrid. But no spell books, not even the useless theory books Professor Umbridge made them study two years ago.
The store also had a selection of Muggle tales. Ginny picked up one after the other, looking at the colorful (but not moving) cover art. Some were grotesque, from men named Poe and Stoker. This bloke Shakespeare wrote quite a bit. Most of his covers were of royalty, but one stuck out to Ginny of a man looking anguished and holding a skull. For some reason, it reminded her of Harry and made her sniff. She kept it but determined to find its balance, something that looked a bit more upbeat. She found one of a lady in a frilly, elaborate dress and a man in an equally resplendent suit from a woman named Jane Austen. It couldn’t be that bad.
“Oh! Klaus told me about the famous visitors to our humble village!” a voice exclaimed from the back of the store in perfect English. The same smiling man from the sidewalk yesterday emerged and quickly offered his hand to Harry. “Welcome to my shop. It’s an honor, Herr Potter.”
“Thank you, Fritz. This is my companion, Ginny Weasley.” Ginny offered her hand and Fritz made a deep bow and kissed it, just as she imagined the characters in Jane’s book would do. She smiled.
The store owner rubbed his hands together and took an appraising look around his shop.
“I’d be more than happy to show you to whatever you may be looking for. Believe it or not, I know where everything is.”
“We have a friend like that,” Ginny commented.
“But first, I’d like to show you something special that you - and I hazard to guess the Fräulein - would be quite interested in.”
Fritz led them to the dark reaches at the rear of the store, so much so that he had to pull his wand for a Lumos charm. His wand went up one pile and down another along with his squinting eyes.
“A ha! I knew I still had it!”
He pulled on a thin volume made of cardboard rather than leather. Ginny’s mouth fell open.
“Oh my God,” she said breathlessly.
Fritz handed the book, The Boy Who Lived, to Harry. His eyes went wide. On the cover was a moving drawing of a baby Harry, complete with glasses and the lightning bolt scar, morphing into an 8-year-old version, wand at the ready and willing to take all comers.
“I mean, people told me this kind of stuff existed and no one lets me forget that I’m famous, but I’ve never seen anything like it.” Harry flipped through the dense pages meant for a child’s hands, taking in the story of a child Harry fighting a dragon that looked remarkably like a Hungarian Horntail. When he was done he noticed that Ginny was even more fair-skinned than usual and her jaw was still ajar. He narrowed his eyes at her.
“You had this, didn’t you?”
Ginny put her hands behind her back and started kicking at the floor. “I mean, I had a lot of books as a kid. Mum and Dad were big on reading…”
“Was this one your favorite?” Harry asked, fighting for dear life to keep a straight face.
“One of them, I guess.”
“What happened to it? Is it still at the Burrow? How come no one ever showed it to me?”
“It… sort of… wore out.”
By now, Harry couldn’t breath. “From reading it so much?”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “And…”
Ginny grit her teeth. The blazing look had come back and her hair seemed on fire. “I slept with it, alright? Under my pillow! Is that what you wanted to hear?” She stomped off to the front of the store while Fritz and Harry held each other up from laughing so hard. When they regained their breath, they followed Ginny with Fritz’s arm around Harry’s shoulders.
“So what can I do for you, my friends?”
“It’s actually a business proposition, Fritz. Klaus said the shop isn’t doing too well. I’m sorry to hear that.”
“A lot of places in Hammerschmidt are on tough times. That’s why they call it the Ghetto. But we survive.”
Harry nodded. “And what if I wanted to buy the store?” Ginny stopped wringing her hands and looked up at Harry with a gasp.
“Oh, Herr Potter! I’m flattered, but this shop is my life. What would I do with myself?”
Harry smiled. “I’ve thought of that. See, I’m not a businessman. I’m not interested in making money. So the shop would become the new Hammerschmidt library, free for all the village. And every library needs a librarian — on a salary, of course.”
“I… I don’t know what to say,” Fritz replied, his eyes starting to glisten.
“When I was younger, I needed a boost. Magic, and my friends, did that for me. This town needs to pull itself up. One of the ways is through learning. Learning magic, but also learning about the world. The children need to know the world can be a much better place. Books can do that. I’ll arrange to have some new editions sent from our bookshops as well. So what do you say?” Harry asked, holding out his hand. Fritz took it and shook vigorously.
“Thank you, Herr Potter. You truly are a hero.”
Ginny excused herself while Harry and Fritz talked specifics. She showed Fritz the two books she had kept and he waved her away.
“It’s your shop now,” he said with a happy shrug.
She went outside and leaned against the building, thinking back to the time where that children’s book seemed to be the center of her life. When she was lonely — which was often in a house full of boys — she would talk to it. Talk to Harry. He was her closest friend. She’s embarrassed by it now, of course, especially since talking to books almost got her killed in her first year at Hogwarts. But she can’t help but go back to what that little girl stuck in her room would think if she knew that little Ginny Weasley would grow up to help Harry Potter save the world. That she would be in love with him. The real, flawed person, not the idolized hero. And that, perhaps, he would love her back.
Harry came out of the store a few minutes later.
“Gin, I’m sorry. I was just having a bit of fun. You know those times don’t mean anything to me…”
But Ginny jumped at him, squeezing him in a hug that could rival the ferocity of one of her mother’s famous embraces.
“You are a wonderful, wonderful person, Harry Potter. And I’m never going to let you forget it.”
They walked connected but contemplative back down the road, past Matilda’s inn, to Maurice’s small grocery shop. Fruits and vegetables lined shelves that were hung outside under the awning. Harry picked up an apple for himself and motioned to Ginny, who nodded as well. He tossed her one and they strolled into a shop smaller than Harry’s shared bedroom at Hogwarts. Canned goods were along one wall and a meat case dominated the other side. Behind the case was a man who was barely tall enough to see over it, bald with a dark mustache that twirled upwards at the ends. He was chatting amiably with two customers. Ginny guessed he was trying to convince them of the merits of one type of meat versus the other. With an “auf Wiedersehen”, the pair were off with their package and Maurice’s joviality left his face as if someone had turned out a light.
“Herr Potter,” he said curtly. “Fräulein.”
“Matilda told you why we’re here?” Harry assumed.
Maurice moved out from behind the meat case to his cash register, where he had a stool. “Of course. She and I go back decades. Ve often talk about my veekly visitor. But I told her vat I told you: I don’t know anything. He doesn’t talk.”
“So you know the elf is a male?” Ginny asked.
Maurice shrugged. “He just seems like one. Gruff. Grunts a lot. Mutters to himself.”
“Sounds like Kreacher,” Harry said to Ginny. She nodded.
“And no idea where he comes from or where he goes?”
“No, Herr Potter. In and out vita a pop. Five minutes. Usually less.”
“How does he pay?” Ginny questioned.
“British galleons. Every time.”
Harry and Ginny looked at each other quizzically. Where is this house-elf getting British wizarding money?
“And how long has he been coming?”
“Since I’ve owned the store. 15 years.”
Ginny got upset that these people had no more information after 15 years, but she had to admit to herself that she’s seen stranger behavior over the past few years. When people want secrets kept, magic finds a way.
“We want to talk to him. Is that okay?” Harry asked Maurice.
“Good luck. Just don’t scare my customers, please.”
“Thank you.” Harry bowed, then flipped him a couple of knuts for the apples. “We’ll be waiting around the corner. You won’t even know we’re there.”
“I doubt that,” Ginny could hear Maurice say under his breath.
The pair left the shop, crossed the street, and hid behind the next building.
“So what is the plan?” Ginny whispered.
“He shows up. We ask him who he’s working for. He tells us. We ask him to take us there. He’s gracious and accommodating.”
“You really think that’s how it’s going to happen?”
Harry and Ginny were both so nervous that they couldn’t finish their conversation. Instead, they stared at the entrance to Maurice’s grocery, hoping for their sakes that no more customers arrived. More people would make it more complicated to corner the elf.
After a couple of close calls of people walking past the shop, waving at Maurice and calling greetings, the unmistakable sound of an Apparation rang through the street. The elf appeared in front of the apple stand. He looked like almost every other house-elf Harry and Ginny had ever seen. Greenish-grey with huge eyes, a spindly body, and flat ears that increased the elf’s head size by double. This one, however, was dressed better than most. He was still wearing a strip of cloth to keep himself modest, but his was shiny like velvet or satin. Normally they wear rags or dish towels.
He picked up a few apples and placed them in the bag he brought with him, along with a head of lettuce and some carrots. He made his way into the shop. Harry crouched down and prowled to the entrance with Ginny right on his heels. When they reached the sidewalk, they raised themselves and pretended to shop, never having less than one eye on the elf. Harry made sure to block the door. Maurice was nowhere to be found.
“Hi!” Harry greeted the elf with artificial brightness. “We were hoping you could help us.”
And that’s all it took. The elf dropped his grocery bag and bounded for the door. He slid under Harry’s legs before he could even react. Ginny leapt out from the side.
“Wait! We’re not going to hurt you!” She grabbed the elf’s arm instinctually before there was another loud “Pop!”. The last thing Ginny heard was Harry scream her name.
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Chapter 10: Chapter 10 - VaingloriousChapter 10 - Vainglorious
Ginny fell forward onto a cold stone floor, scraping her chin. She heard the elf scurry off before rolling herself onto her side and bringing herself back to her feet while pulling her wand in one fluid movement. From there she could look around.
The walls matched the floor, rough grey stone scored by centuries of neglect. This was a castle. Light came from a small window as well as three torches mounted to the walls. There was an ancient armchair much like those you could find around Hogwarts. Next to the chair was a small wooden table with a few books piled on top as well as a stone fireplace that wasn’t being used. It should be; the room was frigid, even in the late summer. The window displayed a sharp drop, followed by a steep cliff in which Ginny couldn’t begin to guess the altitude.
“Harry,” she called with her breath still catching in her throat.
“I have to say: of the visitors I’ve been preparing for, I wasn’t expecting you.”
Ginny wheeled around and pointed her wand at a four-poster bed and its occupant, a gaunt man so pale that his skin rivaled the pearly sheets in which he was wrapped. Weakness exuded from him, to the point where if he and the sheet got into a fight, you would have a difficult time picking a winner. But his eyes were still the same bright blue that were pictured in Secrets of the Darkest Arts and still betrayed energy and power held within.
“W-what do I call you?” Ginny asked.
The old man laughed deeply. “Well, I’m not as vainglorious as Tom Riddle, if that’s what you mean. No ‘Lord’ for me. No pseudonym to strike fear in the hearts of my enemies. You should let your deeds do that.”
“Who are your enemies?”
“These days… just time, my dear. But to answer your question, Grindelwald is fine. If things go well, maybe we move on to Gellert. But I doubt you’ll be here that long. And you are?”
“Ginevra Weasley,” Ginny replied as powerfully as she could, reminding herself to widen her stance. “Where’s Harry?”
“Probably where you last left him. That’s usually the answer when you lose something. I’m sure we’ll see the lionized Mr. Potter soon enough and he’ll be eager to get to his business, whatever that may be. I am looking forward to meeting him. Meanwhile, I believe our chat can be just as fulfilling. Weasley? A fine, pure-blood family. I believe I may have encountered your grandparents once or twice. Are they still with us?”
“No, sir.” She lowered her wand but kept it at her hip. Ginny wondered why she was treating him with such respect. The man was a monster! But something about him just demanded it. She could see what Matilda was saying about his personality. So much different from what she had heard from Harry about dealing with Voldemort.
“And I take it you’ve found Hammerschmidt as pleasing as ever?”
“Don’t you mean the Ghetto?”
Grindelwald nodded. “They still carry that grudge, eh?”
“And why shouldn’t they? You destroyed their country. Put them in a cage.” Ginny could feel her face flush.
He nodded. “With age comes a different view of your accomplishments. But I’m sure you and Mr. Potter aren’t here for apologies. Believe it or not, I never apologized to Albus. And he never asked me to. Hopefully you’re just as wise.”
“So you know he’s dead?”
“Of course, my dear. I could feel it the second Albus’s heart beat its last. We were connected like that from the moment we met. I believe there is someone like that for everyone. I can sense you’ve found yours. I didn’t need Legilimency for that.”
Ginny looked at him with knitted eyebrows. “But Dumbledore defeated you. Put you in this prison.”
“That kind of relationship transcends politics. Ambition. Even death.”
“Do you believe Dumbledore thought you could still be saved somehow?”
“If he did, I wouldn’t be in this cage. He knew I was — am — addicted to power. He did everything he could to keep me in here for more than 50 years. And he succeeded. There’s only one way I’m leaving now. But enough about me. Let’s talk about your Mr. Potter. Your favorite subject.”
Ginny gritted her teeth. Grindelwald’s personality was now bordering on condescension and that was one trait she has never tolerated.
“What do you want to know?”
“Albus was so enamored with him that I often thought it skewed his judgment. I’d like to hear a different view before I deal with him directly. Obviously, a girl besotted with him isn’t the most objective source, but it is all I can find. So, Ginevra, what are Harry Potter’s faults?
That question brought Ginny directly into the arm chair and her hand shielding her eyes from distraction. She had never thought of actually listing the things about Harry that drove her crazy. They just came up, she flared her anger, he calmed her down, and they moved on. The same was true in reverse.
“He’s too protective of me,” she reported softly.
Grindelwald nodded. “In the early days, I was the same with Albus. He hated that. Funny that he ended up doing the same thing with Potter.”
“And he’s too independent. Trying to convince him to accept help always becomes a battle. He doesn’t understand how important he is to everyone. To the cause.”
“Has he told you the prophecy?” Ginny’s eyes fell. “Apparently not. I’m sorry. That’s his tale to tell.”
“And he’s not very forthcoming with information.”
Grindelwald laughed. “Yes, that’s apparently the case.”
“But he’s brave. And loyal. And the most selfless person I’ve ever met. And generous. He doesn’t deserve what he’s been given… this world. But he’s the only one that would’ve been able to handle it. He deserves a happy life.”
Ginny shifted her eyes to the floor again and kicked one toe against the other. “One way or the other. If that’s what he wants.”
“I think I get a picture of the boy. Man, now. I remember Albus telling me about him when he was a baby and had to go into hiding after… Well, time doesn’t go very fast in here. 16 years feels like ages. Anyway, thank you for your candor, Miss Weasley. Shall we retrieve Mr. Potter? I’m sure he’s worried about you.”
Ginny simply nodded. Somehow a simple conversation had weakened her more than yesterday’s duel with Harry.
“Munch! Can you please fetch Harry Potter?”
The house-elf returned through a half-door in the wall, nodded at Grindelwald, and Apparated on the spot. 30 seconds later, he and Harry had appeared in the middle of the room. Harry scrambled to his feet and rushed to Ginny, cradling her head and shooting an accusing look at Grindelwald.
“I was so worried that I’d lost you,” Harry whispered to her.
“I’m fine, Harry. He’s… not what you’d expect,” Ginny whispered to him.
Harry gathered himself to his feet and turned to the old, sallow wizard.
“Mr. Potter,” Grindelwald greeted him with a weak nod. “Believe it or not, it’s a pleasure. Anyone whom Albus held in such high regard is always worth meeting.”
“I wish I could say the same thing. Did Ginny tell you why we’re here?”
“No, but we had a delightful conversation nonetheless. She is a perceptive and enchanting young woman.” Harry looked at Ginny, who returned his gaze with a look that said See what I mean?
“We need help — “
Grindelwald held up a hand. “Before we discuss specifics, what makes you think I would help you? From what I understand, Tom Riddle and I share a lot of the same views about the rightful place of wizards in this world. What if I believe his world would be better than what we have now? Besides, I’m a very old wizard who isn’t far from seeing Albus again. What do I care about the current war? My fight was lost a long time ago.”
“Because Voldemort fights for the wrong reason. He only wants power for himself, selfishly.”
Ginny sat up. “What did you call him earlier, Grindelwald? ‘Vainglorious’? Isn’t that different from why you fought?”
“And from what I’ve learned, you were willing to share that power with Professor Dumbledore in the beginning. Voldemort has never shared anything in his life,” Harry rationalized.
Grindelwald nodded. “There was a time when Dumbledore and I shared the same feelings, in every way that matters. What we disagreed on was the methods. He wasn’t willing to do what needed to be done. Which brings us back to you, Mr. Potter. Are you willing to pay the ultimate cost to win this war?”
Harry didn’t hesitate. “Absolutely.” Ginny sniffed. Harry has said as much before, but she never gets used to the idea of a world without him. To her, it seemed a waste for him to save a world and leave it. To her, that world would be useless.
“And what about your principles? Have you ever killed anyone, Mr. Potter?”
“I killed Tom Riddle’s basilisk when it was about to kill Ginny and I. And I’ve used the Cruciatus Curse on the woman who killed my godfather. And I would’ve killed Snape after he betrayed Dumbledore, but he got away.”
“So the answer is no. You’ve never killed someone. You’ve never looked a person in the face and found yourself willing to make sure they never draw another breath. Or, even worse, killed someone who didn’t deserve it. What makes you think you would be ready to kill Tom Riddle when the opportunity presents itself?”
Harry looked back at Ginny before returning to Grindelwald. “It’s what I’m meant to do.”
“Ah yes, the prophecy. Dumbledore told me about it when you were just a baby with an unfortunate scar. Speaking of which, Miss Weasley deserves to know everything about this mess that you’ve put her in. You are being selfish. Anyway, prophecies are wrong all the time.”
Harry’s shoulders fell. They were talking in circles. He and Ginny were both starting to believe they had wasted their time and just booked themselves a room in a nearly-impregnable wizard prison.
“He’ll be able to kill Voldemort because I’ll be right there with him,” Ginny found herself saying.
Grindelwald wrapped his hands in his sheet and shook his head. “Mr. Potter, you do not deserve her. And I know for a fact that you wouldn’t be able to complete ‘your mission’ without her.” All Harry could do was nod. “Alright, I will do what I can. For Albus. For Miss Weasley. With a few conditions.”
“Such as?” Harry asked.
“Obviously, I can’t leave my… home here. Dumbledore has made sure of it. Munch only observes certain commands from me. Dumbledore was his master. Still is, apparently. The ways of the house-elf are… curious.”
So that’s how the elf has British wizarding money to use, Ginny mused to herself. Dumbledore must’ve left it for him during his visits.
“My powers aren’t what they once were, mostly because I’m old but also because of the wards Albus has put around this place. If you are looking for a soldier, you’ve come to the wrong place.”
“We don’t need your dark magic. We need your knowledge,” Harry said.
Grindelwald raised a kindly smile. “Of that, I have plenty.”
Grindelwald smiled in admiration. “So that’s how Riddle has stayed alive after everything you have put him through. It’s… genius.”
“It’s demented,” Ginny contributed.
The old man shrugged. “So you want to find a way to destroy his. Simple enough. I’m surprised Albus didn’t show you.”
Harry straightened himself. “There’s more than one. He’s made seven.”
Grindelwald dropped the sheet he was wringing. “Impossible! That should have killed him by itself.”
“Three are already destroyed. The four that are left can’t be. They’re irreplaceable Muggle relics. They would go to war to protect them. We have to reverse the spell instead and we don’t know how. But we’re wasting time. What else do you want?”
It seemed like the veteran wizard deflated in front of Harry and Ginny’s eyes. “I want to die. I want you to kill me.” Ginny gasped and Harry took a step backwards. “It’s been too long in this room. And, sometime, Tom Riddle will come to me. Maybe to preserve his legacy. Maybe because he thinks I know something, so he’ll torture me. I want to leave this world, see Albus again, on my terms.” He turned to Ginny. “I told you I was still addicted to power.”
“Absolutely not,” Harry replied. “Dumbledore kept you alive for a reason. I can’t unravel his wishes. It would… dishonor him.”
“Which is why I had to wait until he was gone.”
Ginny looked up to the ceiling. Her eyes had started to glisten. “You’ve paid for your crimes.”
“No one believes that, Miss Weasley. Not even Albus.”
“I won’t do it, Grindelwald. I’m fighting this war to save people. Innocent people. Not kill them. I will only kill one person, or he’ll kill me. That’s it.”
Now Grindelwald’s face flushed. “War is not convenient, Potter! It doesn’t have rules. You do what needs to be done. Otherwise you lose. There is no alternative. Riddle knows this and he will use it to defeat you. And everyone you care about.”
“We’ll find another way. We can figure it out. We don’t need you.”
Grindelwald chuckled derisively. “If that was true, you wouldn’t have come here. You wouldn’t have taken the risk. And make no mistake: I do have the answers you’re looking for.”
Harry turned away, toward the small door in which Munch made his exit earlier, and held out his hand. “Come on, Ginny. We’ll find another way.”
“I knew you didn’t have it in you, Potter. I told Albus as much. You’re signing her death warrant, Potter! You know that, don’t you? Are your principles more important than Ginny Weasley? Your morals?”
Harry swung around and drew his wand directly between Grindelwald’s eyes, grinding his teeth.
“That’s it! That’s what you need! Remember this feeling.”
But Harry’s arm started shaking and he finally threw his wand to the floor.
“No. I’m not one of them.”
“I’ll do it,” came a nervous but resolute voice from Harry's side.
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Chapter 11: Chapter 11 - Restituo AmareChapter 11
Harry turned around, wanting to grit his teeth but failing. "What?"
"I said I'll do it. I'll kill Grindelwald if it means we get the spell to destroy the Horcruxes," Ginny repeated. As the thought registered, she could see Harry’s heart break.
"Can I talk to you for a minute?" he demanded. A private conversation would be problematic in this cramped, stark prison cell, but he gestured over to the far corner just the same. Ginny got out of the chair with a slow exhale and joined Harry.
"Tell me this is one of your tricks," he whispered as soon as Ginny got close enough.
"No trick. It's the only way to get what we need. I can see it in his eyes."
"But there's plenty of people down in the village willing to manage it." Harry's face was slowly shifting to pleading, although he was willing his voice to stay authoritative.
"For some reason, he trusts me.”
"Because he's insane."
"That's not what I meant," Harry backtracked.
"It better not have been.”
"I just think he's using you for some reason. Trying to wedge us apart.”
"The only way that works is if we allow it. Is it working?"
Harry's gaze shifted down. "I don't know… I've never seen this side of you.”
"Where I accomplish anything I put my mind to? Yes you have. You liked that on the Quidditch pitch.”
'This isn't Quidditch!" Harry exploded. They both looked back at their host, who had an amused expression on his face.
"We’re wasting time. I'm doing it." Ginny announced as she turned back to the room. Harry caught her arm.
"This is my mission. I… I forbid it."
"I'm sorry… what?" Ginny's eyes could burn a hole straight through Harry’s skull
“This isn't how I want things done. We need to be different than the Death Eaters. If we start killing to get what we want, we’ve lost," Harry rationalized.
"Let go of my arm, Harry. I'm doing it with or without you. You'll have to curse me. Would you really do that? If so, you're just like them — one way or the other."
Harry’s eyes widened as he let go. Ginny got a breath and returned to the room.
"Do we have a deal, Potter?" Grindelwald asked.
"Not with me," Harry answered.
"Harry," Ginny whispered. ''Please.”
''Fine. Munch, take Mr. Potter back to the village." The house-elf waddled out of his crawlspace and cut across to stand beside Harry.
''Wait, what about the spell?" Harry asked as he shirked away from the creature's grip.
“People don’t receive rewards if they refuse to execute the work, Potter.”
"I'm not leaving Ginny!”
"It sounds like you already have. Dumbledore would have been very disappointed.''
With a nod and a pop, Harry and Munch were gone. Ginny couldn't help but to reach out for the space he was hardly a second before.
"You didn't have to do that!" she shouted at the old wizard.
"You'll thank me afterwards. Pull up that chair." Still scowling, Ginny did as she was ordered and sat down.
"You're lucky. Some of my best work came in reversing curses. I had to get myself out of some tight spots. Which makes Albus even more impressive. I've had 50 years to act here. I've not made a dent. Of course, I'm not naive enough to suppose he was coming to visit just for the conversation. I could see him going over his work."
"Can we get on with it?" Ginny asked. Grindelwald chuckled.
"My apologies. So you know how a Horcrux is made?" Ginny nodded. "It's greed. Selfishness. Death. Hate. Coming up with a reversal spell just means you do the opposite, which would be?"
Ginny knit her brow. "Generosity. Life. Love.”
''Exactly. Thus instead of destroying something, you strengthen it. Instead of ripping your soul apart, you make it grow."
Ginny looked up to the ceiling in thought. "All right, but how?"
"What do you love?"
"My family and friends. Quidditch-”
''And Potter,” he finished. "So you use your love to transfer Voldemort's soul from the original object to some other. One that is meaningful to you. Then destroy it. In that lies the sacrifice”
''What's the incantation for the transfer?" Ginny asked.
"Restituo Amare. But you also need to perform an action that represents the love."
A twinkle came into the old man's eyes. It reminded Ginny of Dumbledore. ''I'm sure you can think of something."
Ginny tried to fight blushing and failed. "So this will work?”
"I believe so."
"You believe so?!?”
"No one has ever done this before. In all of history, one wizard had made one Horcrux before Tom Riddle."
Ginny nodded. She looked about the room - anywhere but at Grindelwald. She knew what was coming next.
"Now. Your part of the bargain."
Ginny swallowed. "Okay," she stated softly.
“You agree with me,” Grindelwald said. “Otherwise you wouldn't have stood up to Potter. No one can win a war with a spotless conscience. He will need you."
"Maybe. But he won't want me."
"If that's true, he's an exceptional fool. And the world is doomed. Perhaps another reason for me not to see it. Take out your wand, Miss Weasley."
Ginny reached into her pocket and inspected it, perhaps hoping she had cracked it somewhere and the spell wouldn’t work…
''Thank you, dear girl," Grindelwald whispered as she started the wand's movement. Two simple words and it was done.
When they Apparated in front of Matilda's inn, Munch had to use both of his arms as leverage to keep Ginny on her feet.
"Thank you, Munch” she was able to croak out.
"No. Thank you, Ginevra Weasley." She nodded her understanding and the elf made his departure.
Matilda was at her usual stool behind the bar. with two shot glasses in front of her flanking a dark brown bottle. The old barkeep looked tired but made an effort to brighten herself when she viewed the state of Ginny. The younger girl walked over to the bar but didn't sit.
"I thought ve vould toast success. Or failure. Either vay, I figured you needed a drink,” Matilda explained.
Ginny shook her head slowly. She couldn't help but scan the musty bar.
"You haven't seen Harry?”
"He came back a couple of hours ago. Didn't say anything. Just stomped into his room and slammed the door. I heard things being thrown. About an hour later, he left. Didn't say anything. Hasn't been back.”
''Did he… have his luggage with him?'
Matilda's eyes narrowed. "No, dear." She searched Ginny's face for an explanation but came up empty.
"I'm going to bed," Ginny announced, having to push herself off the shiny wood surface to get enough momentum to move toward the stairs.
"Should I tell him anything when he gets in?" Matilda called after her as she was filling a glass for herself.
"Grindelwald's dead," Ginny said, as if testing to convince herself. She heard a glass shatter behind her.
Ginny needed a shower, but she instead found herself toppling onto her bed. The tears started slowly but she was soon gasping for air through a seemingly torrential flood. She doesn’t cry, she ordered herself. A lot of good that did. With her last rational thought, she wrapped her head in the pillow to stifle the sound. She wouldn't give Harry the satisfaction.
The cyclone of her thoughts started with Grindelwald, of course. How he could look death in the face. He didn't smile at the end, but he did look content in contrast to Dumbledore. The look of surprise on the Headmaster’s face would remain with her forever. Of course, Grindelwald would as well.
Ginny thought about their rapid connection. If it were 60 or 70 years ago, would she have been one of those witches who tortured Muggles and caused chaos across the world? Was she really that weak? At that thought, the cyclone grew until it seemed as if it would consume her mind forever.
Then it dug deeper, to the most private regions of her brain - the places only Harry can go. He would deny it, but she could see the expression on his face before he left Nurmengard. He didn't recognize her. It wasn't far from how he looked at people like Bellatrix Lestrange, which meant it wasn't far from disdain. Disgust. Was there a way back from that? Right now, Ginny couldn't imagine not seeing that hateful face every time she looked at him… if she looked at him again. She was surprised he had not left already. If she wasn't so worn down, she would have.
Then her breathing became more regular, her eyes shut, and a silvery mist appeared. Ginny was greeted by Harry's parents, appearing the same as they did in that old picture at Grimmauld Place. Then Sirius. They had never talked much, but when they did, it was as if he recognized something about her she did not. He had that look now and it made her smile. She knew what it was now. Then Dumbledore. He was always kind to her. She was so grateful to him for not holding what happened in the Chamber of Secrets against her that she nearly hugged him every time their paths crossed. Lastly, the intensity of Gellert Grindelwald. The certainty that what he was doing is right.
But more came out of the mist.
Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks, both looking bloody, battered, and defeated. What are they doing there? They just got married too. Colin Creevy, the boy who always held a camera, usually trained on Harry. He took her favorite picture. Her and Harry, sitting by the lake last term. It’s still in her room in the Burrow.
And, finally, out of the mist came a tall red-haired young man. Every single inch bruised or broken. Her brother Fred. It was now that Ginny screamed, willing everyone to go backward into the mist, begging. But they just kept coming.
Someone is holding Ginny's head, straining to keep her from thrashing. She doesn't want to open her eyes. Maybe the mist is true, but only if you confirm it.
"Ginny, wake up. You're fine. You just had a nightmare" A familiar voice. The most familiar. Ginny scrambled up to the nook of the bed, hugging her knees tightly.
"What are you doing here?"
"I heard screaming," Harry explained. Ginny noticed he had drawn his wand.
She closed her eyes. ''I'm fine."
Harry shook his head. "You're always there for me when I have trouble sleeping.''
Ginny's head fell onto her knees. "But you hate me. You hate what I've done. I could see it on your face.”
Harry crawled to her side of the bed, held both sides of her face, and slowly, softly landed his lips on hers. She tried to pull away but he held her there until he got his point across, then released her. Ginny was out of breath.
"I could never hate you. I hated him for putting you in that position. Mainly, I hated myself for not being able to save you from it. I'm supposed to be the hero and here you are, saving me again." Harry wanted to look away but Ginny's eyes wouldn't allow him.
“Really?” Harry nodded. Ginny softened. "I would do it all over again. Because I'm here to protect you. Not just from hexes and danger, but from yourself. It's your code, your nobility that makes you our leader. You lose that and we lose the war." Harry gave a reserved nod. "But part of being on the good side is mercy. That's why I did what I did."
“I know. I thought about that after I finished throwing things,” Harry said sheepishly.
Ginny smiled. "I heard you made a mess."
“I already paid Matilda for what I broke.”
Ginny just shook her head. "This trip is getting expensive, Potter."
Harry grinned, but it departed just as soon as it came. "So… what was it like? I mean, you don’t have to talk about if you don’t want to.”
Ginny sighed. "Can you lay with me? I'll tell you the whole story." She wobbled back to her laying position. Harry slipped in behind her, wrapping her waist in his long arms. Ginny couldn't help herself cooing contentedly.
"I didn't do it," she whispered.
Harry raised himself onto his elbow. "What?!?”
'Well, I helped. But I didn't actually kill him.”
“What do you mean?" Harry’s heart was racing, while Ginny’s was as serene as it had been in hours.
''Did you notice that cauldron by Grindelwald's bed?" Ginny asked.
"Yeah, but I thought it was just for bathroom… stuff.”
"It held the ingredients for Bloodroot Potion. Grindelwald couldn't make it for himself because of the wards Dumbledore set up, so he needed my help. I made it and handed it to him. He drank it and was gone." She extracted herself from Harry’s grasp and rolled around. "Does that count? Am I a killer, Harry?"
He lifted his hand to her face. "No, Gin. It means you're a kind, compassionate person - even to people who don't deserve it." He kissed her forehead and she rolled back around, with Harry’s arms resuming their role.
"So you knew his plan the whole time? Why didn't you tell me?"
"You were too busy yelling.”
"Fair enough. I'm sorry I doubted you.”
“It's okay. I doubted myself until it was over.”
"Why? That's one of the bravest things I've ever heard. You’re amazing."
Ginny let those words wash over her, cleansing any lingering sadness. She could feel herself drifting off again.
“So what happened to Munch?” Harry asked.
“Oh! That’s one of the best parts! So you know how Dumbledore was his master? And now that Grindelwald is gone, he really doesn’t have anything to do?”
“Well, Munch goes to Dumbledore’s heir, obviously. Which according to his will is…”
Harry sat bolt-upright in the bed. “Don’t tell me I have another house-elf!”
Ginny giggled, receiving the reaction she hoped she would. “Hogwarts, silly. He only left you Gryffindor’s Sword and the snitch, and Hermione and Ron that other stuff. Everything else goes to Hogwarts.”
Harry resumed breathing. “Oh. I knew that.”
Ginny shook her head. “So anyway, he’s on his way there now. I told him to be on the lookout for Hermione Granger, who may get him to sign up for a liberation movement but other than that has a heart of gold, and to tell her and Ron that we’re okay, what we’re up to, and to figure out a way to communicate with us.”
“That’s brilliant!” Harry exclaimed, squeezing Ginny from behind. She snuggled in as close as she could to him.
“Can you stay with me tonight?"
''Of course, Gin."
"Would you like to kiss me again?"
"Absolutely." Harry rearranged himself to prepare. Their lips were only an inch apart. From out of nowhere, Ginny's wand appeared, pointed at Harry’s mouth. She flicked from romance to malice like switching a door lock.
"If you ever forbid me to do something again, I'll hex your mouth shut and you’ll be eating through your nose. Understood, Chosen One?" Harry gulped and nodded. Ginny lowered her wand and gave him a slow, lingering kiss.
"Good night, sweetie!" Ginny turned and fell into a peaceful sleep within seconds. It took Harry much longer.
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Chapter 12: Chapter 12 - Lockhart with Skills
Author's Notes: I'm sorry if anyone is offended by Ginny's reaction to the story of Jesus. That wasn't the point. I just thought it was interesting to have an outsider's opinion - especially one who can do many of the same feats.
Harry’s shaking of Ginny’s shoulder became progressively harder with each lack of response he met.
“Gin, wake up. We’ve got to catch a train back in Munich,”
Harry thought Ginny was always beautiful, of course, but this morning’s visage stretched his belief. Her red mane had somehow bunched itself on top of her head like the nest of a particularly lazy bird. And then there was the drool. When she regained a bit of her faculties, that’s what she sensed first. Her eyes went wide. She rose to a seated position and wondered if it was too late for a Disillusionment spell. It was. Harry tried to pretend he didn’t know what she was worried about, but his upturned mouth betrayed him.
“It was a long day, alright?” she stated as she fell on top of her head and grew an even deeper shade of scarlet. “Where are we going?”
“Italy. Turin. The bloody sheet. We can talk about it on the train. But we need to get moving.”
Ginny took a longing glance back on her pillow. “I need to take a shower,” she pronounced.
“Yeah, I know,” he said with a smirk, then deftly spun out of the room and avoided the pillow that was thrown at him.
When Ginny finally emerged, Harry and Matilda were leaning together at the breakfast table conspiratorially, even with the sound of her steps on the wooden stairs. She cleared her throat and they split apart. She turned and observed that Harry had already brought their luggage down.
“Good morning, Ginny! How did you sleep?” Matilda asked. Harry hid his mouth with his sleeve and Ginny pressed her lips together.
“Fine, thank you,” she stated as she walked around the table, flicking Harry in the back of the head along the way. An array of baked goods was deposited around the table, but she moved straight for the coffee pot. She picked up a coffee mug, considered it, then pulled one of the beer mugs out from the bar instead.
“I was just telling Harry about how it feels like a new day in Hammerschmidt. And not because the sun just came up.”
Ginny couldn’t help but make a little shudder. She understood that once word got out, the village would celebrate Grindelwald’s death. The whole Wizarding world as well. She just couldn’t bring herself to join them, especially if they found out what role she had to play in the affair. The reluctant hero. At least she knew somebody with whom she could relate.
“But now it’s up to you, Matilda. The village has the opportunity to bring magic back to Germany. You don’t have the memory of Grindelwald stalking you anymore,” Harry told the older woman. He turned to Ginny, who was still standing at the bar and looking off into space. “I told her about the library and maybe bringing back some magical education to Hammerschmidt.”
“It’s a lovely gesture, Harry. But you’re correct; we need to take this opportunity for ourselves. Maybe the Muggles will listen to us now. Ve can work together.”
Harry reached over and covered her hand with his own. “We’ll help however we can, but we have some things to take care of in Britain first.”
“Yes, of course. Please let us know if ve can do anything. Ve can’t go and fight, but I’m sure the village would like to do something for you.”
A flare of light caught Ginny’s eye from the front window. Then there was another. Harry and Matilda were turned away from it, so they continued their conversation. Ginny padded over to the nook of the glass, one hand holding her mug and the other resting over her wand pocket. Her heart sank.
“Harry. We’ve got a problem.”
Instinctually, Harry reached for his wand as well, but relaxed when he saw Ginny move her hand away from her jeans. He walked over and stood next to her, looking out the dusty windowpane. They both turned to Matilda, Ginny with crossed arms and Harry with a scowl. The innkeeper knew exactly what they were upset about.
“I only told Klaus when I arranged for your ride back to Munich! I swear!”
It looked as if the entire village of Hammerschmidt had crammed itself into the one block surrounding the inn, all waiting for their famous guests to emerge. Klaus’s taxi was in the direct middle of the crowd with its owner standing on the roof. When they saw Harry and Ginny’s heads through the glass, they started singing some sort of celebratory song in German, with Klaus pretending to conduct them from on high.
“You didn’t think we could avoid it, did you?” Harry asked her under his breath.
“No. But I still hoped.”
Harry forcefully motioned for Klaus to get off his car and come to the door. The driver simply waved and carried on directing the chorale.
“Matilda, is there a rear exit?”
A slight smile formed around her mouth. “No, Herr Potter.”
Harry grabbed Ginny’s hand and sighed. As soon as the door opened, an ear-rattling cheer that greatly outsized the crowd rose up to greet them, Matilda included from within. They turned and kissed their friend on both cheeks.
“Thanks for everything,” Harry told her.
“Except for this,” Ginny said with a smirk.
They both waved politely to the people and shook as many hands as they could while weaving their way to the motorcar. Just as Harry reached the door handle, four small bodies squeezed their way through the sea of masses. Dumbledore’s Army — German Division. Ginny hugged and kissed each of them and told Helene they would write as soon as they could.
“Could you guys help make a little path through the crowd?” she asked the children. Helene nodded, turned to her brother and cousins and gave directions. They formed two lines and pushed the people away from the path.
“Accio luggage!” Harry called. The bags flew to the motorcar and the people gasped and renewed their cheers. Klaus finally descended from the roof and shoved the bags into the trunk.
“I swear, I only told Maurice ven I bought breakfast this morning.” Klaus said as he pressed himself into the driver’s seat. Harry and Ginny both rolled their eyes.
Ginny was squinting at a picture only a few inches from her nose while Harry was tracing a path across Regulus’s map on the table between them. Out the window, German foothills slid effortlessly past them.
“So what’s so important about this sheet?" she asked. She reckoned she could make out the outline of a face and the thought gave her a shudder.
When they had got to their seats on the train, Harry had explained that he had gone back to Fritz’s bookshop to ask for help identifying the artifacts after his temper tantrum. Fritz knew all of them and was even able to match them up with the circled cities on Regulus’s map. The only trouble was that there were six pictures and cities, not four. Regulus hadn’t been able to narrow the list down before he was killed. Harry and Ginny would probably travel to at least one artifact only to find it was harmless, risking capture in the process.
“Maybe you’ll keep having visions of the others,” Ginny reasoned. That was their sole hope of getting the hunt done as soon as possible.
But the first thing was the one artifact they knew for certain: the bloody sheet.
“It’s called the Shroud of Turin. How much do you know about the Muggle god?” Harry asked.
“They just have one?”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “Well, that gets complicated. Different groups believe different things. They often fight wars about it.”
Ginny turned up her nose. “That seems like a waste.”
“Anyway, one of the biggest groups believes God had a son, Jesus, who lived here on Earth for a time. I remember the stories from when Aunt Petunia would drag Dudley and I to church, usually after I had performed some accidental magic as a kid. Maybe she thought it would clean me up, since Uncle Vernon couldn’t beat it out of me. Whatever.”
Ginny started grinding her teeth. “It’s amazing you have any love in your heart at all after what those people did to you.”
“Well, I do,” he sounded out as he looked at her for the briefest of moments, then returned to the map. Ginny could feel her ears grow hot and unconsciously pushed her hair behind them.
“Have I ever told you what I’ll do if I ever meet them?” Ginny asked. Nearly every Weasley has shared their ideas around this topic with Harry over the years, ranging from the hilarious (Fred and George) to the shockingly profane (Ron). Even Mrs. Weasley had a try one summer when Harry had arrived at the Burrow particularly depressed, but her ideas lost their punch because she self-edited every other word or so. Somehow Ginny had not yet had the pleasure.
What followed was five minutes of an imaginary procedure that, to Harry’s surprise, featured very little magic but was rich in public shaming and psychological warfare that would even give Voldemort pause (but he would be grateful for the ideas). It was obvious that Ginny had put a great deal of previous thought into her revenge on Harry’s guardians. She may have even written her methods down sometime in the past. Harry’s reactions progressed from horrified to hysterical. At the end, most everyone in the train car was looking at their raucousness.
“Believe it or not, Dudley wasn’t so bad in the end. After I saved him from the Dementors,” Harry said as he caught his breath.
Ginny considered. “Fine. But he still has to do the naked parts.”
“But that would punish everyone else, too!” Harry’s thought restarted another round of laughter. When it was over, they somehow came back to the task at hand.
“What made the Muggles think this man was God’s son?” Ginny asked.
“Well, first, he was born to a woman who had never… uh…” Harry looked down at the table again.
Ginny looked at him and smiled quizzically. “Had sex? She was a virgin?” Harry nodded. “You know, Harry, one day, if you’re lucky, we’re going to talk about having sex. Please don’t drop dead of embarrassment when we do. That defeats the purpose.” She smirked as his face turned crimson and he scrambled to look anywhere but in front of him.
“Ummm, yeah… I mean, thanks. I mean… whatever. Anyway yeah, so there's that. Then he started doing stuff that Muggles can’t do. He turned water into wine.”
“So what? I see Professor McGonagall do that all the time at dinner when she thinks no one is watching her.”
“He walked on water.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Levitation. Sounds like the bloke was just a show-off wizard. Gilderoy Lockhart with actual skills.”
“He fed thousands of people with just five loaves of bread and two fish.”
Ginny was about to say something, but halted. “That’s against Gamp’s Law.”
“Ok, they might have something there. Only if it was a spell, Mum would love it!”
Harry laughed. “But another group who didn’t agree with Jesus, or supposed he had too much power, had him killed. The Shroud of Turin is supposedly the cloth he was buried in. They say that’s his face,” he articulated as he pointed at a grainy spot between the pattern in the cloth.
Ginny looked closer at the photo. Eyes, mouth, nose. All there. She could even catch the hint of a beard.
“Then why isn’t it in his tomb with his body?”
Harry smirked. “Because he rose from the dead.”
Ginny nodded, duly impressed. “Well, to be fair, your parents showed up at the cemetery when you fought Voldemort after the Triwizard Tournament.” Harry looked away again. “I’m sorry, Harry. I got carried away.”
“S’ok. It’s true. But it doesn’t matter whether Jesus was a wizard, the son of God, or a street performer. The Shroud is real and it’s a Horcrux. Now what do we do about it?”
Ginny relayed the reversal spell as closely as she could to how Grindelwald described it. Harry's face went from one of dawning realization to frustration as she worked through the steps.
"That's it?" Harry asked when Ginny finished.
"It sounds pretty complicated to me!”
"But it's common sense! Just do the opposite of what Voldemort did. Hermione could've figured that out in an hour, tops."
Ginny's countenance gloomed. "Well, she's not here."
Harry read his mistake. "But if it was so easy and we could've put it together ourselves, you wouldn't have needed to…"
Ginny made for his hand and gave him a look that bored right through his guilt. “I still don't regret it," she told him.
“I know. But I do." His eyes broke with Ginny's and went to the window. He gazed at nothing in particular for at least five minutes, after which he gave a series of hearty yawns.
"Tired?" Ginny asked.
"Guess so. I didn't sleep well last night.”
“Really? I didn't hear you have a dream or a vision or anything."
"It wasn't like that." And from his tone Ginny understood that he hadn’t slept not because of himself, only because he was watching out for her, making sure she didn't have another nightmare.
She smiled at Harry and patted her lap. "Come here." Harry crossed the table, laid down across the seats next to Ginny, and put his head in her lap. She folded herself and kissed his brow.
"Just a half hour or so. I've still got studying to do,” he warned. Ginny nodded with a knowing smile that relayed she wasn't waking him up no matter what he said.
Ginny made for an Italian dictionary that Harry had also gathered from Fritz's shop. At least she could memorize some of the important words. Yes. No. Wizard. Witch. Bathroom. But it wasn't long before her attention was pulled outside. The train had finally weaved through the foothills of the Alps and was now exposing Ginny to soaring peaks that scraped through the clouds. Some still had snow even in early August. The landscape seemed to shift every few seconds, from tiny villages of only a few shacks to sprawling farms with hundreds, maybe thousands of livestock. On more than one occasion, Ginny's breath caught.
“Oh, Harry,” she found herself saying, but he didn't stir.
Her thoughts went everywhere and nowhere, the past and the future, friends and foes. Fear and love.
"Thank you for bringing me here,” Ginny whispered. Then, after checking that Harry hadn't reacted, "I love you, too.”
After an encounter with another spinning glass door in the train station, Harry and Ginny were greeted by a Turin bathed in the setting sunlight.
"Wow," Harry marveled. Ginny glanced at him, impressed. It wasn’t often his brain stopped turning long enough for him to acknowledge the beauty around him, except for when it was right in front of him. She always thought herself lucky when she fell in that category.
The streets were lined with centuries-old edifices, all of which featured rows of small balconies and ornate molds and sculptures along the facades. The buildings weren't tall enough to obscure the sight of the occasional ancient spire, including one that looked like a taller version of the pyramids Ginny visited in Egypt with her family. It was a good deal taller than those found at Hogwarts. Meanwhile, the sidewalks seemed to be populated solely by lovers walking
hand-in-hand, strolling to a late dinner or a stop at a cafe.
"Ron, isn't this sooo romantic?” Ginny asked in an eery impression of Hermione whenever she grew excited about something. Harry cracked up.
“Ummm, yeah, I reckon. If you like that kind of thing." Harry replied as he kicked the cobblestones, doing his best version of Ron. Now they were both chuckling.
"Who knows? Maybe Italy would finally get them to snog each other," Ginny said. Harry broke off and kissed her briefly.
“It's working for us."
She smiled. "Hotel, Potter. We can snog all we want on the streets of Turin after we drop off these bags."
Harry hailed the nearest taxi.
"A hotel near the church with the Shroud, please,” he told the driver as they slid into the backseat. The grizzled man just stared at him. Ginny pulled the dictionary out of Regulus's briefcase and fanned through the pages furiously.
"Hotel… vicino… duomo… Shroud?” she asked dubiously. The driver narrowed his eyes at her.
They only rode a few blocks when the car stopped at a space with only a single glass door and a couple of windows. It looked like an apartment.
"Is this it?" Ginny asked. The driver must have read her tone because he pointed to a small plaster sign, no larger than a dinner tray, proclaiming the Hotel Vendome. Harry and Ginny shrugged, paid and thanked the driver, and pulled their bags inside.
“Does Italy have a Prime Minister?” Ginny whispered to Harry as they crossed the threshold, only partly joking.
The lobby seemed to be someone's living room that happened to have a desk in the middle. All of the furniture was antique but polished and recently reupholstered. An intricate rug laid in front of a large, roaring fireplace.
"I reckon he did know what he was doing," Harry remarked. Ginny was too busy inspecting the painting of a lady riding side-saddle on a shiny black horse which hung over the mantelpiece. Harry rung the bell on the desk and a young man in a suit appeared from a room to the side.
"Buonasera," he greeted them.
"Uh, hi. Do you speak English?" Harry asked uncertainly. Ginny started reaching for the dictionary again.
"Yes, sir. Good evening. Now may I help?”
"We were hoping for a room."
The man handed Harry a book to sign. Harry initially pulled out the credit card, then changed his mind and gave over some cash instead.
"The room has a TV, right?" Harry asked. Ginny turned around and beamed at him.
The man looked at Harry as if he had grown another nose. "Of course, sir.”
When the business was finished, Harry and Ginny made to follow the man's directions up the staircase when Harry turned back around.
"What time does the Cathedral open tomorrow? We’re… really eager to see the Shroud.”
The clerk's face fell. "Signore James, you didn't hear? The Cathedral suffered a fire a few months ago. It’s closed. No one knows where the Shroud is."
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Chapter 13: Chapter 13 - Finding Bishop
Author's Notes: This is one of those "stranger than fiction" stories. There actually was a fire in the Turin Cathedral in April 1997 (a few months before the story is set). There has never been an official cause, which leads most people to think it was arson. Firefighters used their axes to break the Shroud out of its protective case and moved it to a secure location, where it stayed for about a year until the Cathedral was fixed. I couldn't pass up using that cool story rather than the typical "Harry and Ginny have to break into a museum and steal something". Enjoy!
"I still don't understand how you can be so calm about this," Ginny told Harry as she watched him spread chocolate on his fourth pastry. They were sitting outside at a cafe near the hotel on a resplendent morning. From time to time they would glance at the dome of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, which was covered in scaffolding and mesh tarp.
He gave her a small, reassuring smile. "Gin, this was never going to be easy. In six years, everything has been a challenge - even getting together with you. No one told us where the Sorcerer's Stone was. Or the Chamber of Secrets. Or...”
"I get the picture." It was the same diatribe Harry went on last night when they made it up to their room. Ginny's mind was racing, wondering where the Shroud was and who had it. Harry just flicked on the TV and gathered her under his arm in bed. He even laughed at the American show they were watching, about six friends who evidently had nothing better to do than hang out at a coffee shop, even though it was dubbed over in Italian. Ginny didn’t understand it, but she was brooding too much to try. "But what if Voldemort has it?"
"How do you know?"
"I reckon I would feel it. But also, it's not his style. If he wanted the Shroud back, he would've just Apparated into the church and taken it. Maybe killed a guard or two. If he wanted to destroy the church, he would have.” Ginny took another glance to confirm that it was, indeed, still standing.
"It was as Franco said," Harry went on, referring to the manager of the hotel who told them about the fire. "A Muggle set the fire. The firemen rescued the Shroud and they've put it into hiding to keep it safe."
"I still can’t believe they have a job where all you do is put out fires," Ginny remarked. Harry chuckled.
"So all we have to do is figure out who knows where the Shroud is and follow them to it. It's really a lot easier than Hermione and I using the Time-Turner to rescue-"
"Yes, I know!" Ginny snapped, then smirked apologetically.
Harry scraped his wrought-iron chair against the concrete to slide it next to Ginny's. "Would it make you feel better if we went and checked out the church? Look for signs of magic?" Ginny nodded.
Late that night, after a day of wandering the neighborhood between the church and the hotel, television (Ginny turned out to be adept at game shows, even in Italian), napping, and other pursuits that didn’t require them to leave the bed, the pair dressed darkly and walked the ten blocks to the cathedral. After a theatrical but authentic display of public affection, Ginny dragged Harry by the hand down a dark back street that happened to contain the church's only unguarded gate.
"Alohamora," Harry muttered and the padlock slid open. He was able to levitate it and the chain away without producing a sound and used a Freezing spell to create a thin sheet of ice on the ground for the gate to slide open. After a scramble and another Alohamora, they found themselves in what appeared to be a large rectangular office. Papers were organized into small boxes on the heavy-looking desk, which also had a lamp and a simple telephone. There were no pictures. The only personal item was a jewel-encrusted letter opener. Past the two leather chairs arranged to face the desk at opposite angles was a couch and two more chairs facing each other in front of a stone fireplace. Above the mantelpiece was a picture of an older, bald man wearing white robes and a simple beanie hat. Even in that hat, the look on his face made everyone aware he was important.
"Lumos," Ginny whispered, then cut across to the desk. She began shuffling through the papers and opening drawers.
"What are you doing?" Harry whispered.
"This is a nice office - like that of a man who would know where the Shroud is being kept. If Voldemort doesn't have it, of course." The last drawer on the right side was locked, but not for long. After flicking through some files, she brought a piece of paper up to her face, then folded it and slid it into her pocket.
"The bloke's name is Bishop. I've got his address," Ginny reported in a low voice as she pushed past Harry to the doorway.
"Homenum Revelio,” Harry murmured. Nothing happened. "We're the only ones here." Ginny cast out a relieved breath and nodded.
As they made their way past Bishop's secretary's desk and down a narrow hallway, the walls started to blacken with soot. The long rug that ran down the floor became discolored with water damage. You could still smell acrid smoke, even months later.
"We're on the right track,” Ginny mused.
At the end of the hallway was a massive open space under the soaring dome that could be seen for miles. Stone pillars and arches were obscured by scaffolding, drop cloths, and machinery. Wooden benches, scorched from the fire, were piled toward the main entryway.
“It reminds me of the Great Hall at Hogwarts. Sort of,” Harry remarked.
"Yeah, but that's the actual sky, not a spell," Ginny said as she pointed upward. She was right; the fire had burned a sizable hole in the dome. "So what do we do now?"
But when Ginny turned to Harry, he was gone, walking slowly toward an alcove at the end of the room. When the wind fluttered a sheet in front of the high wall, she could see a painting that looked like what could be seen on the Shroud. It was Jesus, his head ringed by a golden crown. Ginny jogged to catch up.
"This is where it was," Harry reported without prompting. "My scar started burning. Not bad, but it got worse the closer I got. It's... a different feeling than I've had before. Except once. In the Chamber of Secrets."
Ginny turned him around. "At which part? Talking to Tom? The basilisk? Me?"
Harry just shook his head. "Holding the diary."
Ginny's eyes widened. "You can sense the Horcruxes?"
“Maybe. It makes sense. They are a piece of Voldemort and we are connected somehow.”
“And the Shroud hasn’t been here for months. The feeling would have to be stronger if you were actually near it. Do you know what this means?”
Harry narrowed his eyes at her. “We’re not going to walk up and down every street in Turin until my scar hurts.”
Ginny produced a fake pout. “Fine, but it was a good idea. At least when we are close, we’ll know it. It will save a bunch of time.”
“If Voldemort didn’t take it back.”
Ginny’s shoulders slumped. “Right. Any thoughts about how to figure that out?”
“Yes, actually,” Harry responded with a proud smile.
He led Ginny around the side of the main hall, following the trail as the burned wood and scorched stone became more pronounced. It pulled them to the opposite side, where there was another hallway that was completely black. Eventually, wooden braces started to appear that were holding the ceiling upright. They reached a cramped room sectioned off with yellow tape that read “Policia”. Harry bent at the waist and raised the tape for Ginny to slide under before doing so himself.
“It’s a kitchen. Well, it was a kitchen,” Ginny observed. Harry nodded. The only thing that betrayed the fact the room was in fact a kitchen was that the appliances, although melted, could still be identified and the marble sink still stood. This ceiling was braced every few feet with metal scaffolding rather than the wood from the hall.
"And it looks like where the fire started," Harry surmised as he kicked over some of the former cabinetry with his toe. "Tell me what you smell."
"Smoke, Harry," Ginny replied in a leaden voice.
"This was a charm I saw McGonagall use once when she thought your brothers were smuggling firewhiskey into the common room," he explained as he brandished his wand at Ginny’s freckled nose. "Olfactio."
Ginny's hands immediately went to her temples. "A little warning next time, Potter."
"Sorry. Now what do you smell?"
"Still smoke, but heaps of other things, too. The soap from the hotel. Your toothpaste. And something else. Ugh. It's horrible, but I think I recognize it. My dad has some in the shed. It's a.. a chemical or something."
"His Muggle machines smell like it, right?" Ginny nodded. Harry pointed his wand again and cancelled the charm. "It's gasoline. It's used to start fires or cause explosions. Charmed cars like the Anglia and the Ministry's cars don't need it, but regular ones do."
"So a Muggle did start the fire?"
"Right. Magical fire doesn't have a smell."
Ginny grinned. "That was fairly clever, Auror Potter."
"Maybe I'm turning into Hermione."
"Don't push it. So were Fred and George smuggling the whiskey?"
"Absolutely," Harry answered with a smile.
"Did McGonagall catch them?"
"I think you would've remembered your mum's Howler if she had.”
"I don't know. They got so many of them they all start to blend together." With that thought, Ginny's face fell. Harry reached over and took her hand.
"We'll be home soon."
"I know. It's just that this is the longest I've been away from my family. Even at Hogwarts I've always had at least one of my brothers with me."
"If it makes you feel any better, your mom is always telling me she considers me a son."
Ginny turned up her nose and punched Harry in the arm. "Seeing what we got up to this afternoon, that's not helpful at all."
The moan of the huge wooden double doors in the main hall echoed throughout the cathedral. Harry and Ginny's eyes both went wide.
"Sounds like our time has run out," Harry guessed. He held out his elbow. "My lady?" he offered with a grin. Ginny took hold of it.
"You win a prize if you can Apparate us straight into bed," she purred.
"What's the prize?" Ginny stood up on her toes and whispered in his ear.
"Merlin, Ginny, you're going to us splinched!”
"Do you feel anything?' Ginny asked as she stretched herself on a bus bench outside of Bishop's apartment building, a block down from the cathedral. It was more of a palace, with a ringed courtyard anchored by an ornate statuary fountain of some sort of goddess. Three expensive sedans were parked in a line, ready at a moment’s notice.
"Sort of. It feels the same as in the church. The Shroud was here but it's not anymore."
Harry and Ginny had gotten a late start to the morning. After having a bit of a lie-in, they realized that literally every Italian they saw on their way to Bishop’s residence was wearing sunglasses and that they were standing out simply by not wearing some. That brought them into a sunglass shop. No one explained to the couple which were men’s glasses and which were meant for ladies. The disconcerting thing for Harry was that he looked better in women’s sunglasses. “I won’t tell if you don’t,” Ginny tried to reassure him.
Ginny frowned. "So what do we do? Go in? See what we can find?”
Harry shook his head. "It's not worth the risk. People are in there. They're coming and going all the time. Plus there's a guard." He nodded at a man in an official-looking uniform pretending not to pace in front of the drive.
Ginny lifted herself off the seat. "I'm going to go talk to him.” Harry grabbed her elbow.
“And say what? 'We're hoping Bishop will tell us where the priceless artifact you've been hiding is. We want to perform a magic spell on it.'?”
Ginny sat back down and crossed her arms in front of her chest. "I can come up with something.”
Their attention was drawn to a large group of men emerging from the building, They were all wearing black except for one, who was wearing a bright red robe and a grand gold necklace. They were speaking to each other in very animated Italian. Ginny wracked her brain to keep up, but failed. The only word she could pick up got Harry’s attention as well - Shroud. The group piled into a waiting black car.
"We need to follow that car," Harry proclaimed.
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Chapter 14: Chapter 14 - The Best Bit of Bait
Author's Notes: It took a bit of research to find the 1997 exchange rate for a currency that doesn't exist anymore. The closest guess I can make is that 2 million lira was somewhere around $1000. No telling what it would be in pounds.
Harry and Ginny struggled to maintain their connection while dodging the lunchtime Turinese crowd and trying to stay in visual contact with Bishop's car. Eventually it was too much and the pair had fallen a couple of blocks behind the sedan. If the car made a turn, Harry and Ginny would lose them.
"We need to Apparate," Ginny said.
"In the middle of the city? With all these people?"
"It's the only way to move fast enough. We go from alley to alley until they stop.”
"And Obliviate anyone who catches us?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it." Ginny pulled Harry off the main sidewalk into a dark alcove. "Okay, see that alley next to the car? Get there before the light turns green." Harry took Ginny's elbow and followed her directions.
They ended up with a direct view into the automobile. The red man was leaning forward, engaged with the driver and front passenger... until he turned and regarded the two teenagers who appeared to be enthralled with him. Harry and Ginny started looking in any other direction but the man in red provided a pleasant nod just the same. He was used to being the center of attention.
The light changed and the sedan made a left-hand bend. Again, Harry and Ginny trailed on foot for as long as they could before another Apparition helped them close ground. After another block, the sedan pulled into a restaurant's valet stand and the occupants clambered out on their way to their lunch. Ginny and Harry were across the street.
"Hungry?" Harry asked.
"Yes, actually, but we're not dressed for that place," Harry looked over. There was
no one entering in t-shirts and jeans. This time it was Harry pulling Ginny into the alleyway. He conjured a sports coat for himself and a blouse for Ginny that reflected
Harry’s needs rather than those of the mission. She smirked up at him.
“As if you don't see enough of me?"
"You and I have different definitions of 'enough’.” Ginny rolled her eyes.
They dodged speeding vehicles to cut across the street. Ginny thought she caught the man in red regard them, then look down the street to the point where he last saw the pair wearing different clothes. He shook it off and followed his colleagues. Harry and Ginny were right behind them.
“Your Grace, your table is waiting," the maitre d’ said as he kissed the man in red's hand and led the party to a large table to the rear of the restaurant. There were a few men in dark business suits waiting for them. When the maitre d’ returned, Ginny swooped in, elbowing Harry out of the way.
"We would like a private table, preferably toward the back, please," Ginny said sweetly. The man appraised her chocolate brown eyes and smart outfit, spending particular time on the blouse. He then regarded Harry with significantly less interest.
"Do you hold a reservation, signora?”
"Yes, only I didn't make it. Can I see the book?" Ginny asked as she reached for the leather. The man snatched it away.
"I'm afraid not, signora." Their brief struggle had flushed Ginny's chest, which the maitre d’ was failing to ignore. While he discussed other reservation options with her, Harry pulled out his wand and gave the book a tap. He then gently elbowed Ginny.
"Oh! Try a reservation for an Arthur James," Ginny exclaimed. The man consulted the
book and nodded at Harry.
"Mr. James?" He inquired. Harry nodded. He turned back to Ginny. “And you are?" he asked as he kissed her hand.
“Mrs. James," she said dully. The maitre d's breath caught, either working out the age of the happily married couple or the fact he had been shamelessly flirting with the wife.
"Of course. Right this way," he said before leading them to a table for two just over the shoulder from the man sitting to the left of Bishop. The restaurant was small, with only around a dozen tables. Waiters and bussers were moving around as if in a complicated dance, sometimes even spinning out of the direction of an oncoming coworker. The room featured floor-to-ceiling windows at one end that opened out to a long garden with meticulously arranged flower beds and the occasional semi-nude sculpture. The maitre d’ pulled out Ginny’s chair and presented their menus with a flourish.
At the other table, after all of the introductions had been established and the waiter had filled everyone's water glasses, Bishop began the meeting.
"Have all the arrangements been made?" he asked the men in the suits in perfect English.
"Yes, Your Grace. The caterers are in line, as are the decorators. Reservations are nearly full."
"Even at the 2 million lira suggested donation?" Bishop asked.
"People are quite interested to see the Shroud. It appears the fire only boosted its popularity." At the mention of the Shroud everyone at the table looked around for eavesdroppers. Ginny and Harry hurried to cover their faces with their menus.
"So what looks good?" Harry asked Ginny a little too loudly.
"Just a salad, honey," she replied. "And possibly a glass of wine." Harry nodded as a signal that Bishop's table had returned to business.
"Then you really believe he will be there?" one of the men in black asked.
"We've run this kind of operation before. The arsonist, or the group behind him, won't be able to resist another visit. If anyone fits our watch list, we'll move in."
"I do not like putting the Shroud at risk again," Bishop lamented.
"We have an idea for that as well, Your Grace."
The men in suits looked at each other. "We don't believe we should share that just yet."
"What? Why?" Bishop started sounding petulant. He isn't used to not being in control, Ginny thought.
"Less loose ends, Your Grace. Nothing will happen to the Shroud and the Church will make enough money to pay for the repairs to the Cathedral. And we capture the arsonist. Everyone wins." Bishop took a deep breath and nodded. The suited man who had done most of the talking raised his glass. The remainder of the table mirrored him.
"To the Shroud of Turin. The best bit of bait one could ask for."
Bishop and his group left after the appetizer course while the suited men stayed through dessert. Ginny and Harry had trouble reminding themselves to make more conversation in order to not draw attention to themselves, but there was soon nothing else to spy on other than talk of football and families. No more details of the plan or the fundraiser. The pair waited a few minutes after the suits left before making their own departure.
"Will you accompany me to a very expensive party?" Harry asked Ginny as they walked back to the Hotel Vendome with her hand in the bend of his arm.
"l'd be honored, Mr. James," Ginny replied through a giggle. "But seriously, who were those men?"
"Police of some sort, I reckon."
"That doesn't seem like a very smart plan though. Why go to all the trouble of hiding the Shroud only to get it out for a fancy party?"
"You heard them. It's bait. All we have to do is beat them to it and find a way to be alone with it for a few minutes."
"But it sounds like they have a lot more planned than just a party."
"We can handle it. They're looking for the Muggle who set the fire, not a witch and wizard looking to rid the world of evil. I know we'll find a way. We might even have a good time."
"I doubt it,” Ginny muttered under her breath.
When they came back to the hotel, Franco was sitting at his desk.
"Hi Franco. We just heard that the Cathedral is having a fundraiser tomorrow night. Could you find out the details and sign us up, please?" Harry asked.
"Of course, Mr James. l'll make some calls. Also, I took the liberty of purchasing an English newspaper when I was at the newsstand this morning." He handed it to Harry.
"Thank you very much, Franco! That's very thoughtful," Ginny said.
"It's nothing, signora."
Only when Harry opened the newspaper, his face drained.
"What is it?" Ginny asked. He passed it over. Above the fold: Terrorist Attacks Throughout Britain. Beneath the fold: Who Killed War Criminal Gellert Grindelwald?
Ginny bounded up the stairs before Harry could even register her response. He thanked Franco again before coming after her. When he went in their room, Ginny was already tossing clothes into her suitcase. He could tell that she was straining to keep even breaths but was failing spectacularly.
“Gin, what are you doing?”
“What does it look like?” she cracked. “Packing. Going home.”
“You read the same thing I did. They need us back home. And it won’t be long before they put us together with Grindelwald, which means all of Europe will be looking for us. For me.”
Harry made it a point of calmly walking to her and reaching for her closest hand. She wrestled it away, but he went on trying. “Let’s talk this through first.”
“What’s to talk about? I’m going. You can stay on the mission. You… need to stay on the mission. They won’t be looking for you.”
With his other hand, Harry reached for her chin and tipped it gently toward himself. Ginny’s teeth unclenched.
“The article said nothing about you. No mention at all of a spectacularly gorgeous, red-haired witch. Only that someone broke into his prison and he was found dead afterwards. Who knows how the Muggles found out. It did say that no one was going to mourn his passing and that the world is a better place, even that there were celebrations throughout Germany. No one is going to come looking for you. And if they do, we handle them together. We’re a team. We’re… more than that.”
Ginny blinked. At any other time after that speech, she would’ve kissed him so hard he would’ve passed out. But her mind was still everywhere.
Harry continued. “I think someone put that news out as a trap. To get us to come home. And I think we both know who that is. Just as Grindelwald suspected, that Voldemort would be coming for him. He just got there too late. It wasn’t hard to figure out who beat him to the punch.”
“And now he’s terrorizing the whole country because he knows we’re gone. People are dying now. Wizards and Muggles alike. We have to do something.”
“We are doing something,” Harry said in a low voice.
“Not enough,” she replied, then whirled away from him, her fiery hair whipping around after her.
“We get captured as soon as our feet touch the ground. It's been too long already. Voldemort and the Death Eaters are everywhere now. Probably even in the Muggle government. We can only go back when our work here is done and we know he’s vulnerable. Then we spring the trap, lure him out into the open, and end this.”
Ginny turned and sat along the bed, her elbows on her knees, staring forward. She took in a deep breath. “Tell me the prophecy. The whole thing.”
Harry knelt in front and locked eyes with her. “Okay. ‘The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…’”
Ginny’s eyes went wide. “‘Either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives.’ So it’s either you or him?” Harry nodded. “And only you can kill him.” He nodded once more. She could feel tears welling up in her eyes. She knew the prophecy was bad, otherwise Harry wouldn’t have been so secretive about it. And why he always said he was willing to see this through to the end. Because he has no other choice.
And he likewise has no choice on who is there with him.
Ginny pushed herself upward from her knees and pulled Harry to his feet, then kissed him.
“Thank you.” And she could see in his expression that he understood she meant more than just for trusting her enough to tell her the prophecy, but also for carrying this burden for the past six years. For trying to save a world that he didn’t grow up in, that he didn’t owe anything to. “So let’s go and make sure this thing comes true.” Harry gave a slight smile and nodded.
Ginny walked back to her suitcase and set about removing what she had just thrown in, then turned back around.
“Wait, you remembered that whole thing?” she asked him with a lifted eyebrow.
“Well, you know, they are the words that set me on my entire life’s path.”
“And you can barely pass Charms?” Ginny laughed as Harry stuck his tongue out at her. The telephone rang. Harry broke for it but saw the excited look on Ginny’s face. He waved her over to it instead.
“Hello? What? I can hardly hear you.” Harry motioned for her to turn the receiver around. “Oh, that’s better. Hi Franco...Yes, everything’s fine...Oh, you did? Thank you!...Tomorrow night. Perfect...Oh, really?” She turned and grinned at Harry. “No problem. We'll sort that out tomorrow. Thanks!” She hung up and took off laughing.
“What is it?” Harry asked.
“You’re not gonna to like it,” she answered between chuckles.
Back to index
Chapter 15: Chapter 15 - Something You'll Like"If I would've known I'd be doing this, I might've told Dumbledore to take his Horcruxes and shove them up his…"
Ginny sat back in a plush velvet armchair with a mug of a warm chocolate drink and her legs crossed while Harry was being attended to by a decrepit man who was seemingly measuring every square inch of Harry's body, pinning fabric as he went along. They were fenced in by tall mirrors and Harry was standing on a platform carpeted in red. On more than one occasion, the Chosen One, the wizard who would save the world, perhaps one of the most powerful of the age, yelped when the tailor stuck a pin in a bit too far.
It turned out that the fundraiser for the Turin Cathedral was a black-tie affair. Ginny already had a suitable dress from her time with Christopher, the shopper in London, but Harry only had one business suit with him. A tuxedo is a different matter entirely. So while Ginny was giddy the entire morning with the idea of seeing her boyfriend have to go through just a bit of what women do when it comes to making themselves look beautiful, Harry knew that this may be one of the more challenging tasks in the trip and presented the requisite amount of sullenness throughout breakfast. But to be honest, even Ginny was getting bored now. It was difficult to picture what she was sure to be an exquisitely handsome finished product when Harry was draped in mismatched fabrics and screeching half the time.
"How much longer will this be, signore?" she asked, just as much for her benefit as Harry's.
The tailor muttered something in Italian that sounded vulgar, then turned to Ginny. "30 minutes, signora."
"Harry, do you mind if I walk around the store a while? I promise to pick out something you'll like," she said in a sing-song voice.
"I reckon I'll have enough clothes after this, thanks."
"Not for you," Ginny responded, watching until Harry grasped her meaning.
"Oh… well… yeah. Sounds good." She bounded up to Harry and gave him a kiss on the cheek. The tailor grunted as Harry shifted around.
The store's map was in Italian and she was too embarrassed to look up "lingerie" in the dictionary, so she just followed the most fashionable women in the store until they stopped at the right section. It was like getting a tour of a life Ginny hoped she'd never lead, but was alright with visiting from time to time - especially if it was with (and for) Harry.
As Ginny looked through the racks, she felt as if the sun had swallowed the store for as hot as her face felt. For some pieces she wondered what exactly they were selling for as little fabric as there was on offer. For others, she questioned how she would put it on. And then there were the pieces that she would hold up, see the light pass right through them, and wonder what the point of wearing something like this would be - until she made a realization and nearly bit a hole in her cheek.
She opted to try on something that, in her estimation, was comparatively tame: a strapless bra that tonight's formal dress required. She traced the patterns of the lace with her finger, knowing she probably wouldn't have any occasion to wear it again and hoping she was wrong. It was too beautiful to only be worn one time. At least it will be suitably appreciated after the party, depending on how long it stayed on.
As she paid with some of the Muggle money Harry carried around, she was mesmerized by the cashier typing loudly into her computer. Ginny had seen one before, of course, but had never used one herself. Then she got an idea.
"Excuse me. Is it true that you can write a letter to anyone in the world with that thing?"
The cashier, a youthful woman who looked as if she had many better places to be, squinted at Ginny. She puffed out a "Siiiiii".
"Can I write a note to the prime minister of Britain?"
The saleswoman chuckled, then realized Ginny was serious and tried to seem apologetic. "I suppose. But it would likely just go to one of his secretaries."
A smirk formed on Ginny's face. "I'm counting on it."
After making out the math in her head of what Ginny just spent on her lace bra and what her boyfriend was about to spend on a tuxedo, she was happy to help Ginny find the right email address for the prime minister's office. She passed over the keyboard, but when Ginny took a full minute to type "Dear", the saleswoman asked if she would rather have her type. Ginny brightened and nodded.
"Ok, here we go. 'Dear Kingsley. Everything is great here in Italy on our vacation. Things were a little hectic in Germany, but we did pay our regards to an old friend while we were there and got what we needed. We don't know how long we'll be gone or where we're heading next, but we're being safe and making progress. Tell Mum and Dad that we love them very much and that we'll see them again as soon as we can. Tell everyone to stay out of trouble. Love, 6 & 7.'" Ginny hoped that even if he wasn't working for the Ministry of Magic anymore, Kingsley was still protecting the prime minister. He certainly needs it.
"Do all British people have to tell their prime minister about their vacation?" the saleswoman asked. Ginny couldn't tell if she was joking.
"So if he writes back, it will come back here?" Ginny asked. The cashier nodded. "Ok, I'll try to get back tomorrow. Thanks for your help!" she said brightly and made her way back to Harry. When she examined him, she couldn't help but to bite a fingernail. The suit was perfect and fit everywhere he had filled out over the past year.
"I feel ridiculous," he declared when he saw her return. "How do I look?"
"Oh. Ummm. Yeah… good…uhhh."
Harry smiled. "Yeah, Antonio said you would say that." Ginny opened her mouth to speak again but could merely manage a nod. "Never thought I'd see the day where Ginny Weasley didn't have anything to say. Guess the struggle was worth it after all." He took hold of her hand. "Let's go get ready for the party."
The door guard at the gala didn't think twice about admitting Mr. and Mrs. Arthur James, thanks to the aging potion Harry and Ginny had taken just after leaving the Hotel Vendome. Ginny had learned the formula from her brothers Fred and George, even though their own experiment with it went awry during the Triwizard Tournament. The components were simple enough and were able to be purchased at what the Muggles called a "health food store".
They looked to have their dosages right. If you were asked, you would say Harry was in his mid-30s. The creases around his eyes from years of nightmares and stress had deepened and lengthened. If you looked hard enough (as Ginny did), you could find the stray grey hair near his temple. Ginny, on the other hand, was quite difficult to make look older. Her natural energy, shining eyes, and radiant hair would probably always have that effect. If anything had changed with her, the hair may be a shade less vibrant.
Only that's not what Harry was looking at. Rather, it was her floor-length, strapless green gown that fit her athletic form until after her thighs, where it flared out into a skirt that swished around her ankles as she moved. On more than one occasion, Harry bumped into a table, statue, or waiter because he was looking to his side rather than right in front of him.
The pair were taking themselves on a tour of the large reception hall the church chose for the party. It was in one of the Cathedral's adjacent buildings, next door to Bishop's apartment building. As could be expected, everything was exquisite. Anything metal had been polished to a mirror finish. The electric lights were used sparingly, only highlighting important works of art hanging on the wall or situated around the room. The balance of the lighting was accomplished through the glow of hundreds of candles, including a group that formed the main chandelier. Waiters were circulating with glasses of champagne and hors d'oeuvres. Those who knew each other (which were most, considering Turinese high society often traveled in packs) chatted amiably.
Harry and Ginny, on the other hand, took themselves around the room, inspecting the art but also anything that may be out of place. There was no telling what the police's plans for the Shroud entailed.
"Do you feel anything?" Ginny asked.
"I feel a lot of things," Harry replied with a wink and a quick squeeze of her bum.
"Prat!" She slapped his hand away while trying to hide a grin. "I'm old enough to be your mother!"
"Nah. Older sister maybe. Oh, stepsister! That works." Ginny's look could have burned a hole through Harry's eye sockets. "But yeah, I feel it. It's here in the building. Much stronger than in the Cathedral."
"Where is it?"
"I dunno. They must be hiding it."
The string quartet posted in the nook of the ballroom finished warming up and leapt into their first piece, a waltz.
"Have we ever danced?" Harry asked with a spark in his eye.
"Not that I remember. You had your chance at the Yule Ball and decided to spend the time pining after Cho Chang instead, much to the delight of your actual date. Poor Parvati. Meanwhile, I had a perfectly lovely time with Neville."
Harry's face fell. "All that lost time. The person I was meant to be with was right there and I was too stupid to see it."
Ginny took Harry's hand. "She's here now."
He smiled. "But what would you have said if I asked you to the Yule Ball first?"
"I would've accepted, of course!" Then she wrapped her arms about his neck and leaned into his ear. "And it would have been the happiest night of my life," she whispered.
Almost unconsciously, they began swaying with the music. They weren't waltzing, per se, but they weren't standing out from the crowd, either. Every so often, Ginny would take her head off Harry's shoulder and look into his iridescent green eyes. When she did that, she made a wish to herself and whatever guiding force was out there to let this be her future. That her and Harry would look like this decades from now, get along like this, and never want to let go of each other like this forever. That this wasn't merely a part of the mission. That this night was a window to her future. Their future.
"You don't like to think about the future much," Ginny said into his neck. It wasn't a question. She knew him well enough to know his answer.
"I don't really have that luxury."
"But everyone knows you want to be an auror after Hogwarts."
"I have to tell them something, otherwise they would lock me in a room and throw away the key."
"You don't really want that?"
"I do. I just can't picture myself getting there. When you've never had a normal life, when you've had a price on your head since you were a baby, you don't really know what to expect if you get one."
Ginny pulled back to look him in the eye once more. "You can expect the entire Wizarding world to love you as a hero. You'll hate it, but you won't be able to stop it. You can expect a job where you'll work hard to be the best, because that's what you do. You'll help people, because that's also what you do. And you can expect someone completely devoted to you to be there every step of the way."
"And who's that?" Harry asked with no trace of sarcasm. He honestly didn't know.
"You're going to make me say it, eh?" She took a deep breath. "It's me, Harry. I'll be right next to you. For whatever you need for as long as you want it. We're a team. And that doesn't mean just chasing Horcruxes. It means supporting each other after bad days and taking care of each other when we're sick. To let each other vent when we're frustrated. Which, knowing us, will be often. To hold each other through the nightmares. At least, that's what I want…" she trailed off, looking down to the side. Harry put his hand under her chin and led it toward his mouth. He gently kissed her.
"That sounds like a life worth fighting for," he breathed. It felt as if Ginny's eyes would dissolve into a watery mess. Thankfully someone began tapping on a microphone. Bishop.
He was standing at the center of the room in red robes that were shinier than what he was wearing yesterday, a hat that can only be described as lavish, and had put on his best beaming smile. He was flanked by his group of priests in black. After beginning his remarks in Italian, he would translate for himself in English.
"I would like to thank each of you for the kindness you have shown our church during this difficult time. Tonight is about more than money - although that helps!" The gathered guests dutifully chuckled. "Tonight is about we as a community coming together to stand up for what we believe in. Our faith. Our history.
"So please enjoy yourselves. Dinner will be served shortly. But first, let us welcome back for the first time since that horrific night, our beloved Shroud of Turin!" He gestured toward double doors on the opposite end of the ballroom, which opened and revealed two armed security guards walking shoulder-to-shoulder. Two more were rolling in a heavy wooden cabinet carved in intricate patterns. On top of the cabinet was a glass box. Within that box sat a golden, engraved rectangular prism, almost like a casket.
"The Shroud must be in that golden box," Harry surmised. Ginny just nodded, still wiping a stray tear from her eye. Discovering this, Harry wove his fingers with Ginny's and brought her hand up for a tender kiss. She smiled and they worked their way through the crowd to the display, but Harry stopped suddenly.
"What is it, Harry?"
He leaned down to her ear, not wanting to cause any alarm for the other guests.
"That's not the Shroud."
Back to index
Chapter 16: Chapter 16 - She's My Little Angel“The Shroud isn’t in there. It doesn’t feel any different than the rest of the room,” Harry explained once he dragged Ginny back to a corner of the room and cast a Muffliato charm so they weren’t overheard. “I reckon you were right the whole time. Getting out the Shroud just for a party wasn’t worth the risk.”
“But you say the actual one is somewhere in the building?” Ginny asked.
“Then this is a decoy. We just need to find the real one. No big deal.”
“Alright, but how do we get away and look for it?” Harry questioned.
Ginny tilted her head and counted the number of security guards around the room, not to mention the church personnel in frocks and a few of the members of the police she recognized from yesterday’s lunch. The two guards who brought in the fake Shroud were perched next to the cabinet, pretending to guard a priceless artifact. All in all, the people tasked with protecting the Shroud outnumbered the partygoers. The only others were the catering staff, who were beginning to prepare buffet tables at the opposite end of the room.
“We wait until dinner is served. There will be lots more movement to distract the guards. How’s your Disillusionment Charm?”
“Not great. I’ve always had the Invisibility Cloak. We’d have to go really slow and I’d have to recast it every few minutes.”
Ginny nodded. “It’s better than nothing. Maybe we won’t need it.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny could see a man straining to look much too casual as he walked directly toward them. It was the leader of the police from the lunch yesterday. She quickly cancelled the Privacy Charm before the man could wonder why Harry and Ginny’s lips were moving but nothing could be heard. He had offered a hand to Harry before even coming to a stop.
“Mr. James. Mrs. James. I’m John Cleary. I helped put together tonight’s festivities. Thank you for your generosity.” He introduced himself with a bow. “I just wanted to make sure everything was to your liking.” Harry took his hand and shook. Cleary turned to Ginny and they did the same. Up close, the man was even more calculating than they reckoned, with piercing grey eyes and a receding hairline that said more about his experience and the action he’s seen than any story he could tell.
“It’s been wonderful, Mr. Cleary. We don’t often have a chance to go out by ourselves anymore, with the children and all,” Ginny replied. Harry glanced at her sideways.
“Oh? I have a couple of them myself. How old are yours?”
Harry opened his mouth but Ginny beat him to the answer, narrowing her eyes. “Six, four, and two.”
Cleary purposefully turned to Harry. “Two was a difficult age, I recall. Mine are 15 and 17. A girl and a boy. The girl drives me spare these days.” Harry and Ginny both struggled to remain stone-faced. There’s no way he could know about them - the real them - could he?
Harry blinked. “Yes, I reckon. She’s… my little angel, but I know it won’t be that way forever.”
Cleary laughed. “Too right, Mr. James. Too right. So, how long are you in Turin for?”
Harry reminded himself to keep his answers shorter. Less probability of giving anything away. “This is our last stop. We’re leaving tomorrow morning.”
The officer nodded, his eyes never leaving Harry’s. Ginny wondered if he thought Harry was the weakest link. If he only knew, she thought. Cleary then clapped Harry on the shoulder.
“Well, I trust you and your lovely wife had a wonderful time in our city. I’ve taken up enough of your time.” He turned to depart, then turned on his heel with his hands behind his back. “Oh! I know the Archbishop will ask. He’s always curious about these things. From which parish do you hail back home?”
“Parish?” Harry asked uncertainly.
The corner of Cleary’s mouth turned upwards. “Yes. Your home church?”
Harry and Ginny looked at each other. “Hogwarts,” they sounded out in chorus.
The policeman tilted his head. “Really? Never heard of it,” he remarked as he waved farewell at the couple.
Ginny couldn’t “Muffliato” fast enough. “That could’ve gone better.”
“You were great. So great that he zeroed in on me instead.”
“I thought the same thing. You did fine,” Ginny said with a worried smile. “The 15 and 17 thing was weird, though, right?”
“How would he know? Unless…”
Harry’s face had gone pale. “He looked into our passports somehow. From when we came into the country.”
Ginny’s jaw dropped. “We need to change them before we leave.” Harry nodded. “But if he does know about us, he can’t think two teenagers set the fire in the Cathedral? That’s all he cares about, right?”
“Let’s hope. We can’t change the plan now. If his guard is up, they’ll move the Shroud again soon. We won’t get any closer.”
“Agreed. But first we need to figure out where to go. Did your Horcrux sense trigger at any of these doors?”
“I wasn’t paying attention. We should go round again.” Then, without giving Ginny time to respond, Harry gathered her back up in his arms and started leading her around the dance floor in the best approximation of a waltz that he could remember from Professor McGonagall’s lessons. Ginny gasped.
“Harry, we’re the only ones dancing! What happened to staying incognito?” It was true; everyone else was still gathered around the fake Shroud.
“Grab a glass of champagne from the waiter coming up on your right,” Harry ordered. He glided Ginny next to the man in a white tuxedo holding an antique silver tray with an assortment of full and empty champagne flutes. She reached out with her detached hand, scooping up a glass without spilling a drop. They didn’t even need to slow down. “See? Now we’ve had too much to drink, in case anyone catches us somewhere we aren’t supposed to be.”
“Clever, Mr. James,” Ginny complimented with a grin.
One of the waiters rang a bell signaling the commencement of dinner service. Those partygoers who had spent their time with the “Shroud” opted to start the line for the buffet, while the others stayed around the case. Before long, the room was a roiling mass of wealthy socialites. Harry and Ginny stopped dancing and she deposited the champagne flute on a nearby table.
“Where do we go, Harry?”
He guided Ginny to a single door. A flock of black-clad priests was only about 15 feets away, but they were all being chatted to by elderly patrons. Harry spun Ginny around so they were back-to-back. After an Alohomora, the door’s lock clicked. Wordlessly, Harry crept into the opening with Ginny walking backwards, keeping up her watch until they were able to close the door again. They took a brisk walk through what looked to be a coat room. Another, unlocked door led to a wood-paneled hall.
“Time for the Disillusionment Charm?” Ginny asked. Harry shrugged, muttered an incantation, and tapped Ginny on the head with his wand. It felt as if some sort of gel was oozing down her body. “Did it work?” she asked.
Harry nodded, then performed the charm on himself. He held out his hand for Ginny to take before the spell made it down his arm.
They walked down the hall with caution, both of them marveling at their chameleon-like appearance. Their bodies had taken on the walnut color of the hallway paneling. If they needed to change shades, there was a slight shimmer in their outlines. Shadows were also visible, but the hallway was only lit by moonlight through the occasional window, so that wasn’t of much concern.
When they arrived at the first corner, Harry halted their progress. Steps that were first barely audible were getting louder. Harry took a look back and whispered a swear. Ginny’s charm was already wearing away. He cast it again as quietly as he could before holding his breath as the rapid footsteps passed. It was one of the waiters, carrying a case of champagne. Harry then recast his own charm.
“Which way now?” Ginny breathed.
“Right. It feels like that door he just came out of.”
She nodded before remembering she was invisible. They slid along the bulwark of this shorter corridor. Harry tried the doorknob and found it unlocked as well. After a cursory look around, they spun onto a narrow landing. Ginny wasn’t looking and bumped into Harry, nearly sending him toppling down a stone staircase.
They eased themselves down the stairs with only the light from Harry’s wand guiding the way. Ginny’s heels rapped against the stone and caused an echo. She took off her shoes and left them to the side. They got to the bottom of the staircase and found a room lit only with a red light lined with racks of wine bottles. Ginny ran her finger along one and blew off a considerable amount of dust.
“It’s just a wine cellar, Harry.”
“It’s here,” he grunted. He was in discomfort.
Ginny spun her head about like a turret. “Where? It’s only wine.” She could hear Harry’s footsteps make their way around the perimeter of the dank cellar until they stopped in front of the second to last wine rack. As his charm wore off, Ginny could see only his hands working across the wood shelving - except the shelving bowed, as if it were a curtain.
It was a curtain, painted to look like one of the racks. Harry moved it aside and found a steel vault door, complete with a numbered dial, a large wheel with spokes coming out, and a shiny handle.
Harry turned to Ginny with a forced smirk. “Found it.”
Ginny bounced with excitement. “Oh! Oh! Let me do it!”
“So let me get this straight,” Harry started while holding his scar. “I do all the work and lead us here, using the pain from my scar no less, and you get to open the cool vault door? I’m just a tool to you, aren’t I?” Ginny could see the grin behind his forearm.
“Yes, sweetie. And the sooner you understand that, the better off we’ll be,” she replied while she wedged herself between the vault and Harry.
“Ron would’ve let me open it,” he grumbled under his breath.
“That’s because Ron’s Unlocking Charm is crap. Alohomora,” Ginny called with a rap of her wand. The numbered wheel spun clockwise, then counterclockwise, then clockwise again. There was an audible grinding of cylinders moving into place. She took hold of one of the spokes and turned the large wheel. The door disengaged itself from its position. At last, she pulled on the handle. The door rotated open and a light emitted from the other side. She peered around the six-inch thick door. Harry’s head eased next to Ginny’s.
It was a small room constructed of the same steel as its door. Its only contents were a cabinet, glass box, and golden receptacle identical to the one currently on display upstairs. Ginny glanced at Harry, whose hand was still at his forehead. He had started squinting. She took his wrist briefly and then led him inside. They split, Ginny inspecting the left side and Harry the right.
“I don’t see anything. No buttons or handles. No keyholes,” Harry observed. “Alohomora.” Nothing happened.
Ginny grimaced. “Blasting Hex?”
“Please don’t. It is priceless, after all,” said a familiar voice from outside the vault.
Harry and Ginny both pointed their wands at the entrance, with Harry bounding to Ginny’s side to put himself between her and the voice. Her wand hand still found its way around him. From the shadows emerged an old man dressed all in red, minus his grand hat from before. His arms were clasped behind his back and a welcoming, anticipatory smile was on his lips. The pallid face of a man who had spent his life studying stood out the most.
“Bishop,” Ginny gasped.
The man yielded a one-beat laugh. “I haven’t been called that in more than a decade, my child. My name is Archbishop Giotto Santorini. Most people call me ‘Your Grace’, but you don’t have to. You aren’t Catholics after all, are you?”
“How do you know?” Harry asked.
The Archbishop laughed again. “We have a lot of rituals in our faith, son, but none of them require magic wands. Please, put them down. I’m not here to hurt you. I’m merely here to… learn, I suppose.”
After a beat, Harry lowered his wand. It took Ginny a little longer to weigh the same, but she did and sidestepped out of Harry’s shadow.
“Can you do away with the disguises as well, please?”
Harry and Ginny looked at each other and shrugged. After their run-in with Cleary, there was obviously no point in keeping up the charade.
“Revelio,” Harry incanted while swirling his wand above his and Ginny’s heads. The age lines smoothed from Harry’s eyes and his hair darkened. Ginny’s became brighter.
“Astonishing. Just children. And you can do so much already,” Santorini said with a wag of his head. “Don’t be in such a rush to get older. I say this from experience. Oh, forgive my manners! I don’t come across many non-parishioners anymore.” He stepped forward and offered his hand.
“Harry Potter,” Harry said as he took it.
“Ginny Weasley,” Ginny said as she did the same. “So how did you know about us?”
“One of my Sisters thought she found out two people enter the Cathedral a couple of nights ago. I thought nothing of it until a pair matching the description she gave followed my car, through remarkable odds, to lunch yesterday. Then, as part of the arson investigation, everyone who registered for the fundraiser was subject to a background check. Your passports showed some… irregularities.”
Harry grit his teeth in frustration. They were sloppy and reckless. They would have to manage better - if they got out of this first. Ginny read his thoughts and took his hand.
“Don’t worry. Mr. Cleary doesn’t suspect you of the arson. I convinced him you were just eager fans of the Shroud. Believe it or not, they do exist. We captured the actual arsonist, or at least some of his associates, soon after you disappeared during dinner. He’s brought them to an Interpol station.”
“So you figured out we were magical? Why? That wouldn’t be most people’s first guess,” Harry surmised. “And why didn’t you tell Cleary? Or the press, for that matter?”
“Why, because of the Agreement, of course.”
“What agreement? The Statute of Secrecy?” Ginny asked.
“No, that’s between our governments. This is between your people and the Church. In fact, it’s as old as the Church itself. They… don’t tell you about us?”
Harry and Ginny both looked at the older man with blank stares. “I only know about churches because I was raised by Mug… non-magical people. Ginny didn’t know anything about church until I explained to her on the way here.”
The Archbishop frowned. “Well, we know all about your people. At least, they tell us when you become an archbishop. Needless to say, it was quite a jolt when the Holy Father explained it to me. Would you like the hear the story?” Harry and Ginny shrugged and nodded.
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Chapter 17: Chapter 17 - Miracles and MagicSantorini took a breath. “Your people sought out Christ - Jesus - when word had spread of his good deeds. His miracles sounded magical, yet they knew not of him. I suppose they wanted to make sure he wasn’t wicked, or whatever you call it. So they met and the magical people gave him a test. Jesus performed every task they gave him and then some. Your people became afraid, as people tend to do when they encounter something they don’t understand. But our Lord had a way of making people feel comfortable and they parted peacefully.
“The night before Jesus was to be crucified, he sent for a wizard he had befriended through the tests. They spoke and came to the understanding that it did neither of their causes any good to acknowledge the other, or certainly to fight. Hence, the Agreement. There’s a famous painting of that dinner, with Jesus, his disciples, and your wizard. He’s on the left. You should look for it someday.”
“And it’s held for all this time? The Agreement?” Harry asked. The Archbishop nodded.
“Of course, we run into each other from time to time. Our people have had certain problems that only magic could solve. Plagues and such. You’ve been very accommodating. You even have a representative at the Vatican, Father Perceval. He and the Holy Father have a regular game of Euchre, so they say. But I’ve never met a wizard before. Or a witch for that matter, my dear. Which is why I was so eager to come down and make your acquaintance.” Then the kindly man’s face fell. “But I assume you aren’t tourists and you’re not here on a social call.”
The pair nodded. “How much do we tell him?” Ginny whispered to Harry.
“I think we might need him to open this case. Safely, at least,” Harry replied before turning back to the Archbishop.
“Have you heard that a security guard was murdered here, thirty or forty years ago? And the killer was never caught?”
“Heard of it? I was here. I was just a young priest at the time, but I remember everyone’s fear. Church attendance dropped for months. I still hear people talk about it from time to time, especially after the arson. Strange things have been happening around the Shroud since the very beginning, Mr. Potter.”
“Nothing stranger than this,” Ginny mused sardonically.
“The murderer’s name is - was - Tom Riddle. He’s a dark wizard. The most powerful there has ever been. He believes that the non-magical should be enslaved to serve wizards, but only those of pure blood. He calls himself Lord Voldemort now,” Harry explained.
“Your people have known all this time and haven’t told anyone? Did you punish him?”
Ginny couldn’t help but give a derisive giggle. “We’ve been trying for 20 years. He has followers. An army. There’s already been one war - which he lost. It’s a long story, but Harry… drove him into hiding when he was a baby. Now there’s another war. He’s taken over our government and killed a lot of people, magical and non-magical. Almost everyone else has gone into hiding.”
“My apologies, but you fought him as a baby and won?” the Archbishop asked with incredulity.
Now that she thought about it, Ginny had never met someone who didn’t already know the story of the Boy Who Lived. Recounting it, she could see where it would be hard to believe.
“That goes into why we’re here for the Shroud,” Harry began as he leaned on the case, tracing the edge of the glass with his finger. “He came to kill me and my parents. He succeeded with them but his spell backfired off me. Everyone thought he was dead but he wasn’t, partly because of the Shroud.
“When he killed the security guard, he was performing a ritual of extremely dark, extremely rare magic. It basically put a piece of his soul into the Shroud itself. As long as the Shroud survives, so does he.”
All of the life drained out of the old man’s face. He reached to hold himself up against the wall of the vault. “To kill him, you need to… destroy the Shroud? That’s why you’re here? I… I can’t let that happen. It’s one of the few things we have left from Christ. It’s our entire faith.” He made a step to reverse himself, to get help. Ginny reached for the man’s shoulder.
“No… Your Grace. We found a way to reverse the spell. We won’t hurt the Shroud. But we do need it. That’s why we need to get inside the case.” Ginny could feel Santorini’s shoulder relax.
“The Shroud is in that case for a reason, Signora Weasley. To protect it. It’s airtight. Bulletproof. Needless to say, the Shroud itself is very fragile. Only the Pope can order the case open, and he only does every ten years or so. I’m sorry. Even if I could, I wouldn’t. You will need to find another way to win your war.”
Harry lengthened himself. “Your Grace, there is no reason not to believe that if Voldemort takes Britain, he won’t conquer all of Europe. No other magical or non-magical government is strong enough to win against him. It would be the end of both of our worlds. And we have reason to believe that there is only one person who can defeat him.”
“And that is?”
“It’s Harry, Your Grace,” Ginny said through gritted teeth. “If Harry can’t defeat him, no one can.”
“Which is why they’ve sent you both on this… quest. Two teenagers.”
Ginny wrenched her face. “They didn’t exactly send us.”
“No one knows we’re here,” Harry contributed. “And only two other people know about Voldemort’s dark ritual at all, and they’ve both been captured. It’s up to us. All of it.”
“And I don’t suppose you have any proof of all this?”
“I’m sorry, Your Grace. All of our materials…” Harry began, but Ginny put up her hand.
“Harry, your scar.”
Harry reached to his forehead with a confused look, but a look into Ginny’s eyes gave him understanding.
“Archbishop, this is the scar Voldemort’s curse gave me when I was a baby. It burns whenever I’m near him or something having to do with him. It’s been warm all night, but it’s worse now. If I may?” Harry reached for the Archbishop’s hand and placed the man’s finger on the scar.
“Now watch what happens when I touch the case.” Keeping Santorini’s finger on the scar, Harry reached for the glass once again. A surge of power forced the Archbishop to pull his hand back.
“I… I… It’s true!” The older man shook his head. “You poor boy.”
Harry grinned for the first time. “You get used to it.”
“I’m sorry, Signore Potter, but that doesn’t change anything. I still can’t open the case. When we do, we have to bring in engineers. Scientists. It takes them almost a whole day.”
“Your Grace, can we at least try?” Ginny pleaded. “We understand the Shroud’s importance. We would never hurt it on purpose. And we can repair any damage done to the case - maybe even to the Shroud itself. We have a very effective spell for that. No one will know.” Aside from the Bat-Bogey Hex, Ginny considered her Mending Charm her strongest spell. Merlin knows she’s needed to use it enough, between growing up with Fred and George and running around with Harry Potter.
The Archbishop narrowed his eyes. “And your other spell? The one that kills the dark wizard? It does no damage?”
“The way we understand it, yes. But I do have to be honest with you because you’ve been honest with us: that spell has never been done before,” Ginny said.
“We learned it from another dark wizard. You may have heard of him. Gellert Grindelwald?” Harry interjected.
Santorini’s mouth dropped. “The Nazi? He was a wizard?!?”
“The most powerful dark wizard until Voldemort,” Harry explained.
“I saw the newspapers yesterday. It… it was you, wasn’t it?” He didn’t have to elaborate.
“Yes,” Ginny replied, her eyes never leaving the older man’s. She didn’t feel the need to elaborate, either.
The older man started pacing from one side of the vault to the other, his head downcast and his hands kneading each other. “That’s how grave the situation is, isn’t it? For two children to have to do that?”
Ginny considered correcting him, going into the story of her brief time with Grindelwald, but thought better of it. If that demonstrated her and Harry’s devotion to the cause, so be it. “Yes, Your Grace.”
The Archbishop stopped in mid-step. “I cannot forgive that, no matter the cause. Killing is against our faith, even though we have been just as guilty of it as anyone else. But I suppose that doesn’t matter to you, considering we’re from different worlds as you called it.”
Ginny’s eyes fell. The truth was that hearing his admonishment did wound her, even if Santorini had the wrong idea about what happened.
“So be it,” the Archbishop added. “Do what you will. But you are responsible for any damage to the Shroud. And even your considerable skills will not help you run and hide from our resources.”
Harry and Ginny couldn’t help but smile at each other. “We understand, Your Grace. We won’t even try to escape. We would feel equally hurt if something were to go wrong. And we would bring in our… resources as well,” Harry agreed.
Santorini nodded. “Oh, and one more thing, Signore Potter? Signora Weasley?... Can I watch? I’ve seen a lot of special things in my work. Even what some consider a miracle or two. I would like to see true magic, though. Just once.” Harry and Ginny nodded in concert.
“But you’re probably going to want to stand back,” Ginny warned. The Archbishop did as he was told.
Harry and Ginny circled the cabinet, both of them rapping on the bulletproof glass, assessing its strength.
“Severing Charm?” Ginny asked him with an eyebrow raised.
“Worth a try. Diffindo!” A bright light emitted from Harry’s wand. He held it as steady as possible along one of the seams of the heavy glass, moving his arm slowly. Dust was snaking its way into the air but there was no discernible difference in the case.
“Together?” Ginny questioned. She moved to Harry’s side and held her hand against his so their wands were pointing at the same spot. They both said the incantation at the same time and slid their wands against the same seam. This time, they could see it falling into itself.
“It’s working, Gin. Go along the whole seam, then down the sides. We can slide the top sheet of glass out.” Ginny nodded and did as she was told. By the time they were done, they were both out of breath. The last time Harry had held a spell that long was when he faced off against Voldemort in the Little Hangleton graveyard when his enemy had regained his body. And he was much more powerful than Ginny, who looked as though she were about to faint.
“I’m fine,” she said without being asked. Harry held her around the shoulders and kissed her temple just the same. When he felt she was no longer wobbling, he released her and slid the pane of glass off the cabinet and leaned it against the wall. A strange gas smell came from within the now-open case. The golden box was locked. With an Alohomora, the lock clicked open. Harry lifted the door to the casket and immediately fell to his knees, holding his forehead.
“Harry!” Ginny called. The Archbishop also took a few steps forward with concern.
“Just help me up,” Harry said through gritted teeth. Ginny took his elbow and dragged him to his feet. When he was finally standing, it was Ginny’s turn to keep him upright.
The couple peered in. There it was - the Shroud of Turin. They could see the red stitching pattern in the cloth and also found what was once red but is now brown, what Christians around the world believed to be the blood of Jesus himself. Ginny skipped a breath. Although it had only been six days since her brother’s wedding, it felt as if it took a month for her and Harry to get just to this point, their first Horcrux.
“You brought it, right?”
“In my inside jacket pocket.”
Ginny snaked her hand inside the fabric of his tuxedo coat - trying not to be distracted by the feeling of his chest under his shirt - and pulled out a folded piece of parchment. Sirius’s letter. It was Harry’s idea to use it as the sentimental object that would be sacrificed during the reversal spell. Ginny fought against it for fifteen minutes, wanting to sacrifice a hieroglyphic necklace she had bought on her trip to visit her brother Bill in Egypt a few years ago. Harry argued, successfully, that their first try with the spell should be with something of his, considering his continuing bond with Voldemort. She held the letter up between her thumb and forefinger.
“Here we go,” she announced with a look behind her at the Archbishop, who was moving his weight from one foot to the other.
“Restituo Amare!” Harry called while tapping his wand on the Shroud. A great wind started spiraling in the small room. The lights flickered. Harry and Ginny both felt their eardrums popping with the vortex, just as they had in the airplane. A purple ball of energy came from the roll of cloth and stuck to the end of his wand. Ginny moved the letter closer to him. It appeared as if the letter was a magnet to the energy, sucking it onto the paper while still allowing the purple glow to orbit the parchment. The Horcrux was not yet embedded in the letter.
Ginny grabbed Harry by his collar and kissed him with as much meaning and force as she could muster. Harry equaled her intensity. Neither wanted to break the kiss. Harry opened one eye and looked at the letter. It now had a soft violet glow. Finally, Ginny remembered what they were doing as well and took a look. They broke away from each other. As soon as they did, both of Harry’s hands went to his head and he again fell to the floor.
“Burn it, Ginny! Hurry!”
The letter burst into flames much stronger than would normally be the case with a piece of parchment, to the point where Ginny had to toss the letter onto the concrete floor. She scrambled to kneel next to Harry. As the fire burned through its course, high pitched screams seemed to come from the paper itself, but all three participants knew where the sound was really coming from - one-seventh of Lord Voldemort’s soul. The last thing that could be made out from the letter was Sirius’s signature. Harry removed first one hand from his head, then the other.
“Did it work?” Ginny asked fearfully. Harry just smiled at her. She wrapped her arms around his neck.
A/N: Yes, I am just as happy that we are done with our first Horcrux as you are. I’m with Ginny; it took forever to get here and it’s only been a week in their time. Hopefully it’s been an entertaining ride to get to this point. Thanks to everyone who’s come along, left comments/followed/favorited/whatever, and generally kept me going. The dings on my phone always get the creative juices flowing.
I know there’s going to be some questions about how this went down. First, I have no idea if Diffindo can get through bulletproof glass. We only have a few cases of broken glass in canon and that wasn’t bulletproof. What I do know is that it only took a fireman about ten swings with an axe to get through it during the actual fire (there’s a video on YouTube; it’s pretty cool). Simultaneous Severing Charms on the seam of the case should work, but who knows. I didn’t want to use the Blasting Hex due to the unpredictability of it. If you remember from the Hall of Prophecies, Ginny’s is particularly powerful. Plus, I just liked the idea of H & G combining their magic.
No, I’m not dealing with fiendfyre, Basilisk fangs, or the Sword of Gryffindor when disposing of the Horcruxes. Fiendfyre is too big when you’re trying not to alert the Muggle authorities. Good luck getting on a plane with a Basilisk fang (even in 1997 and even if they had one). And the Sword always just showing up when it was needed seemed like a cop-out to me. Regular burning is fine. If the object can’t be burned, maybe we get out a Blasting Hex.
Also, I’m still looking for a beta. My lovely wife was serving as one for a while (you may have noticed the Grindelwald chapters being tighter than the rest), but she’s gotten busy with work.
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Chapter 18: Chapter 18 - That Ginny, This GinnyHarry was sitting on a series of steps leading up to the Trevi Fountain watching Ginny with an amused expression on his face. She was standing, holding a black and white photo to her view and turning herself around in a circle. When she nearly toppled into a family of tourists Harry chuckled, then apologized to the family. They thought he was making fun of them.
"Having a good time?" she asked with an upturned corner of her mouth. Harry nodded. "You know, this is important. If we can figure out where Riddle was sitting and in what direction he was looking, maybe we get a clue about these two artifacts."
After they had destroyed the Horcrux in the Shroud of Turin, they explained the basics of the magic they had performed to an emotional Archbishop Santorini. He practically begged them to stay in Turin and demonstrate more. Both Harry and Ginny wanted to. They remembered how fulfilled they are from sharing their love of magic, dating back to Dumbledore’s Army, and they could see how their little demonstration had affected the older man. But it simply wasn’t possible. Voldemort was waiting.
Both of them had trouble sleeping, expecting another vision of Tom Riddle making another Horcrux, just as they had received of the Shroud earlier in their trip. Perhaps because of that, no such vision came.
They spent one last frustrated morning in Turin plotting their next step and returning to the store from which Ginny emailed Kingsley at the Prime Minister’s office. Adding to their despondency, the reply they received simply read “OK”.
Regulus had identified two potential Horcrux candidates in Rome. Between that and the picture of Riddle at the world's most famous fountain, they hopped on the next train. Both exhausted travelers fell asleep, nearly missing their station. After another nap at their hotel, they decided to trace the dark wizard's steps while being bombarded by another gorgeous Italian city at sunset.
"Maybe he just wanted some gelato," Harry mused, dipping a small plastic spoon into a dish of mint chocolate chip.
"Speaking of which, gimme some," Ginny demanded as she strode up to him and held her mouth open. Harry held out the spoon and smeared the frozen cream across the top of her nose.
"Oh, sorry. I'm still fatigued from yesterday. Can't see straight," he said with a grin. Then he leaned forward and cleaned up his "mistake" with a kiss before taking another scoop and holding it out for her. This time she swiped the spoon for herself.
"I don't trust you,” she explained, then stuck out her tongue. She walked back and started again inspecting the photo against the backdrop of the square full of people. She took two steps to her left and turned 45 degrees.
"Go up three steps." Already on thin ice. Harry did as he was told. "OK, turn your head in... that direction," she said as she pointed toward a series of balconies aligned with the sun. Harry squinted. Ginny's jaw slackened and she fell to a squatting position. Harry dropped his ice cream and lept to her side.
"l'm fine. It was just a flashback, you know?"
Harry nodded slowly. "Yeah, I do. Want to talk about it?"
She returned to her feet. He took her by the elbow and guided her to his previous seat, avoiding the gathering pool of gelato, before taking the seat next to her with his hand on her knee.
"It was just one of the.. . conversations I had with the diary. I wrote about some time when you ignored me at lunch or something and how sad I was. Tom wrote that not noticing me might be just as evil as a curse. And I agreed with him! We joked that maybe you were a dark wizard, too. How stupid was I, huh?" she asked rhetorically with a shake of her head. Harry reached out and held her face still.
"You weren't stupid. You were being used. You're so much stronger now than you were then. You don't let me get away with anything. I'd hate to see what you would do to Tom these days."
"I'm looking forward to finding out,” she said, her brown eyes darkening.
With their first Horcrux success, Ginny couldn’t help but start thinking about the final encounter. Will she be ready? What will it be like? Will Voldemort remember her somehow? It was when her thoughts would turn to the likelihood that they were going to lose people they loved that she would force herself to change the subject of her internal conversation.
What she was sure of was that no one would be able to hold her back. She wouldn’t hear any “underage” or “protection” nonsense. Her experience with the diary and in the Chamber of Secrets had aged her, just as it had Harry. The prophecy may only refer to him, and because of that she would probably let him finish the battle. But no one could keep her from starting it - not even Harry. She had unfinished business as well.
“But you have to understand something, Harry,” Ginny continued, staring at nothing in particular. “Everything I wrote in that diary was true. I mean, from my perspective and before Riddle really had his hooks in me. The ramblings of a lonely, scared, sad little girl. I wrote terrible things about you. I feel worse about that than anything I did while I was possessed by Tom. You didn’t deserve that and I’m sorry. All you had done by then was save my brother’s life a couple of times and been a good friend of my family. I was selfish. Maybe if I wasn’t like that, Tom wouldn’t have been able to get to me so easily and none of the rest happens.”
“Easily? I doubt it was easy, no matter what you wrote. Do you remember our trip to Flourish & Blotts before that term started?”
“Sort of. I remember Lockhart. And my dad getting into a fight with Lucius Malfoy. Bill and Charlie still don’t believe that happened.”
“You don’t remember standing up for me when Draco started running his mouth?”
Ginny turned back to him with a questioning look on her face. “No, not at all. What happened?”
“Oh, he just started with his usual stuff. ‘The famous Harry Potter’ and that. And before me or Ron could do anything, you jumped in and told him off. ‘He didn’t ask for any of that’, you said. It looked like you were about to jump on him.”
“No wonder I don’t remember. I sort of lose track of my mind when I get like that.”
“I’ve noticed,” Harry said with a smirk. Ginny raised an eyebrow at him and he stopped.
“Then what happened?”
Harry looked off. “Oh. Nothing.”
“What happened?” Ginny repeated.
“He called you my girlfriend. Real original. But Ron and I handled it.”
“Oh. Okay. What did I say to that?”
“Nothing, I think.”
Ginny’s face flushed. “See? Complete idiot. All he had to do was bring that up and I turn into a whimpering little girl.”
Harry took her hand so hard it pulled her toward him. “That wasn’t my point. My point was that, even then, even when you couldn’t speak to me, you wanted to fight an older boy because you thought it was the right thing to do. Something tells me that no matter what you were writing or feeling, when the diary started suggesting you do those bad things, you fought as hard as you could - which is harder than anyone I know. It was just powerful magic.” Ginny grimaced and nodded. “So no more of this ‘young, stupid Ginny’ stuff. That Ginny helped make this Ginny. And it’s this Ginny that I…” The color drained out of his face. “...think is pretty great.”
She couldn’t help but laugh to herself. One day, Potter. One day.
"So what brought the memory back?” he asked.
Ginny held out the photo. "You, looking just like him." She was right. When he was on the steps, she had positioned him perfectly.
"So the photographer was... there," Harry reasoned, pointing to a large picture window on the top floor of a building, just below a group of menacing-looking gargoyles. Ginny looked at the photo, then followed Harry’s finger and nodded, thankful for the distraction.
"By the looks of that apartment, whoever was stalking Riddle had money and connections. Or was very good at Apparating."
"That could be the Black family, but both Regulus and Sirius were too young. Someone was on Voldemort's trail before then.”
Ginny furrowed her brow. "I wish we knew who that was. Maybe they could help us sort this out."
"Yeah, I know. At least we only have two options. If we just get near them, I should be able to feel the Horcrux."
Ginny nodded. "But not tonight. You promised me one of those pizza thingys. If we get to bed early, we can be the first in line to check this stuff out." She took his hand but he stayed rooted to the spot.
"l'm sorry for ignoring you back then," Harry said softly. "If anyone was being stupid, it was me. But that day, in the bookstore, I did notice you. Not in the same way I noticed you last year, obviously. I’m pretty sure that’s illegal." Ginny laughed. “But I noticed that you were someone that supported me. I didn’t have a lot of those.
“I didn’t go into the Chamber of Secrets because I have a hero complex, no matter what the Daily Prophet and most of Hogwarts thinks, or because you were Ron’s sister. I did it because it was you who was in trouble. In my mind, we were friends - even if I didn’t act like it very much.”
“It’s ok, Harry. I understand now. Ron can be a bit… possessive when it comes to you. I bet he’s going spare right about now. I wish I could send him a Happy Howler. ‘Hi Ron! Hear that in the background? That’s the Trevi Fountain in Rome. You wouldn’t believe all the great food they have here. We’re having a fabulous time. Harry hasn’t mentioned you once. Actually, we haven’t done much talking on this trip at all, if you know what I mean. Anyway, have to get back to the hotel. It has a bathtub big enough for two! Love, Gin-Gin.’”
“That’s horrible! You need to think of poor Hermione.”
“You’re right. Maybe she’s killed him already and it would be a waste of a Howler.” Harry laughed in spite of himself.
Ginny wrapped her arms around his neck. "Do you notice me now?" she asked with a wicked grin.
"At least once every few seconds or so." Harry was rewarded for a satisfactory answer with a soft kiss. She buried her face in his neck, then retracted with a start.
"No, it can't be!” she said.
"What?" Harry asked as he broke their embrace and started turning around.
"No! Don't turn around. You’ll tip him off."
"Tip who off?" Harry asked while he moved his free hand to his wand pocket.
"At the cafe behind you. I swear I see the man who gave us gum on that airplane ride to Munich. That can't be a coincidence, can it?"
"Let me see."
"Ok. Grey suit and a cup of coffee, sitting alone. No sunglasses. Almost as if he wanted us to know he's there. Make a big show of turning me around."
Harry gathered Ginny as if they were preparing to dance. He lodged her head next to his and spun in a few steps.
"That's definitely him, and it's no coincidence. Remember Klaus thinking he was following us?"
"What do we do, Harry?"
He paused in consideration. "We thought staying with the Muggles was safer, but I guess not. We need to go back to the hotel and get our stuff, then find Rome's magical neighborhood. If we can't lose him on the way, we definitely will there. Just act normal and follow my lead."
"Why can't we just Apparate?" Ginny asked.
"I'm not confident in where the hotel is yet. All these streets look the same. Plus, I want to give him a chance to follow us."
"Confirm our suspicions. Then we'll know how careful we need to be. Maybe he has backup. We can't make as many mistakes as we did in Turin. We got lucky that the Archbishop turned out to be a friend."
"I think you mean 'fan’.” Ginny remarked. Harry could feel her nod against his face. With one arm, he reached down to retrieve Regulus's bag. With the other, he took Ginny's hand.
Luckily, the way to their hotel wasn’t far and started with a narrow street that acted as a funnel for the setting sun's light. If Harry and Ginny were having trouble seeing, so too would their tail. After a block and a half, Ginny risked a look behind them.
"I can't see him," she reported. Harry just provided a questioning grunt while still leading her purposefully down the lane. At the intersection with the Via del Corso, they took a right. Their hotel was on this street, just past the Piazza Colonna. This time it was Harry who ventured a look backwards, still finding no sign of the man.
"Who do you think he is?" Ginny asked.
"Well, he doesn't work with Cleary. We met this guy before we even knew we were going to Turin. He’s not a Death Eater. He would’ve done something to us on the plane. He must be British Muggle government, that Scotland thing Kingsley mentioned. Which means he might be working for the Death Eaters, whether he knows it or not."
They came to a stop at the next intersection, trying to blend into the middle of the group of other pedestrians.
Ginny squeezed Harry’s hand. "He's a block behind us, also stuck in traffic."
"Does he see us?"
The lights turned green all the way down the Via del Campo. Harry walked with their group. They were mostly tourists, walking slow to consider one piece of architecture or another. When the mass came to the Piazza Colonna and its impressive column of Marcus Aurelius, the group stopped to take photos. Harry and Ginny were stuck, which gave the man his opportunity.
"Harry, he's running. He’s going to catch up," Ginny reported. Harry’s response was to pull her through the tour. When they emerged, he dragged her to a running pace.
"Just a couple more blocks," he called behind him. Ginny was preoccupied with keeping watch on the man, who was still gaining on them. She was so preoccupied that she didn't realize she had lost hold of Harry's hand, or the motorscooter speeding down a side street.
What she did notice was a crushing pain in her leg and a brief time flying through the air, along with Harry's scream.
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Chapter 19: Chapter 19 - Muggle PotionsA/N: Many thanks to my new beta Encycoopedia for taking part of his Saturday to make this chapter much better (and turning it around faster than my wife, even though he's across an ocean). He has a Time-Turner, apparently.
When Ginny’s eyes fluttered open they were out of focus, as if looking through water in a glass. She was laying down, looking up at the roof of a metal box with electric lights. The box rattled from side to side and, occasionally, up and down. The sound of metal-on-metal was only out-shined by a high-pitched wailing coming from the outside. Ginny watched everyone but her sway forwards and backwards. They were urgently talking to each other - or, at least, it sounded urgent. Italian always sounds urgent. Only one person wasn’t participating.
There was a dark head leaning down across her arm, holding her hand as if it was the only thing keeping him from falling off a cliff. She couldn’t be sure, but her arm was wet where his eyes were.
The dark shock of hair flew up.
“She’s awake! That means she’s going to be fine, right?” he asked the other person in the room as he grabbed the man’s sleeve. He turned around and greeted Ginny with a studious look. He shined a light in her eyes. Both of them noticed that the man made no commitment about Harry’s question.
“Harry, what happened?”
He looked at her and sniffed, trying to wrench on the same strong look that she had given him so many times.
“There was an accident, Gin. You’re hurt pretty bad. We’re taking you to the hospital. You’re going to be fine,” he ended with a waxy smile.
Her head felt as though someone was walking along a wall and hitting switches as he went. Some things turned back on. Others shut off. One of the switches controlled the shearing pain in her right leg, which suddenly decided to come on. She groaned and Harry somehow took an even-tighter grasp of her hand.
“Don’t look down,” he warned. Which, of course, meant she did.
Were legs supposed to bend like that?
The best option right now seemed to be to just go away. Come back later and try again. So that’s what she did, with Harry’s calling to her a switch that slowly turned off.
Now she found herself in the same bed but in a much larger room. The sounds of pain and despair surrounded her. The lights seemed to have clouds moving in front of them. How could it be overcast inside? Someone wearing a billowy green outfit padded over to her side with an outstretched needle. She tapped Ginny’s elbow a few times and then punctured her arm.
“Owww! What the hell was that?”
“Oh, hello. Something for pain,” the green woman responded in broken English. There was no one else in the room.
The woman just raised an eyebrow.
“My boyfriend. The one who was here with me.”
“No one else, signora. Rest. Doctor here soon. Needs to set bone.”
It could’ve been five minutes or five hours, but a man dressed in white pulled back the curtain guarding Ginny from the other sufferers, flanked by three other green people.
“Buonosera,” he said simply before ordering around the green people in Italian. He put his hand in front of Ginny’s face and moved his finger side to side, up and down. All she could feel was swaying. He nodded at the others and took her knee gently. One quick pull down and over produced pain she had never felt before, as if lightning had struck just her leg. No, that would be different. It would burn the nerves. If this pain was ever going to happen again, just chopping off the leg sounded like a better option to her. She was just about to tell the Muggle healer that when she fell back asleep. It was sleep, wasn’t it?
Everything’s detached. If she moves her head, whatever she’s looking at stays in place. She’s in a different room now, but still alone. Harry had abandoned her and she couldn’t be upset with him. Is that really what happened? Thoughts weren’t connecting from one side of her brain to the other. She looked down at a leg she could only see, not feel. The bandages made it so she couldn’t even see her foot. She would just slow him down. He was too important. The thought of never seeing him again made her want to flip another switch, a lot of them, but she fought this time. Isn’t that what he said? The best fighter he had ever known?
Her scanning of the room took more urgency. Where’s her wand? Where’s her clothes?
The door was open and two voices, both male, wafted through. When she saw Gum Man was one of them, she closed her eyes. He doesn’t need to know she’s awake. Maybe she’ll fake that she died. Maybe she won’t fake it.
“No sign of the boy?”
“No. Ambulance crew said he ran off as soon as they arrived here.”
“He won't be back.”
Not if he’s smart, Ginny thought to herself.
“So what do we know?” the other man asked.
“One of those ‘wrong place, right time’ deals. First showed up on our screens impersonating one of the PM’s children. Next, pop up in Munich just before that Nazi war criminal turns up dead.”
“That has to be just a coincidence. They’re just children.”
“I tend to agree. I was with them on that flight to Munich. It looked like they had never flown before. They didn’t seem like assassins, but who knows? But I wasn’t done. Then they’re there the night the Shroud of Turin arsonists are caught. See that Interpol flash? But you should see the passports they’ve been using. I haven’t seen counterfeiting like it in 20 years. And apparently an unlimited amount of financing. Someone in the PM’s office is trying to sweep this under the rug but there’s too much here. I had to trail them. This girl getting hit by that Vespa was the best piece of luck I’ve had in a long time.”
“The nurse from Emergency said she woke up asking for a ‘Harry’”. Gum Man flipped through a file. “There is an alert out for a ’Harry James Potter, 17, most recently from Little Whinging, Surrey’, which would make her ’Ginevra Molly Weasley, 16 next week, from Ottery St. Catchpole, Devon’.
“And no other ties?”
“No sir. They’re ghosts. No school registration. Not so much as a doctor’s visit.”
“Keep digging. When she wakes up, I want to be there when you question her.”
“Don’t worry. Surgery tomorrow to try and put her back together. Doc says she’s going to be in here a month just for the shattered leg. They’re worried about a concussion, too, but haven’t done any scans yet. You’ll have plenty of time to meet Miss Weasley.”
Ginny could hear the heavy steps of the other man walking down the hall. Gum Man turned and took up residence in a chair next to Ginny’s bedside.
“He’s not coming back, you know. I see it all the time. He duped you into… whatever this is. Now you’re dead weight.” Did he know Ginny was awake or just talking to himself? Ginny tried to remain as still as possible. “Yes, Miss Weasley. I know you’re awake. Your pulse perked up a bit, according to that nice machine there. You might as well chat to me.”
Ginny opened her eyes, trying to muster enough energy for one of her famous scowls. From the look on Gum Man’s face, she succeeded.
“I know we’ve met before, but we didn’t exchange names then. I’m Mr. Brown, Her Majesty’s Security Service.” Ginny just grunted. “Let’s start with something easy. Do you remember why you’re here?”
Brown nodded. “I tell you, these Italian drivers are insane. Especially on their stupid little motorbikes. I saw the whole thing. Frankly, it’s a miracle you’re alive.”
“Are you in pain? I can send for the nurse. Get you more of the good stuff.” Brown pointed at the plastic bag hanging to Ginny’s left, with tubes running down to the needle in her arm. Her breath caught and she reached for her left arm with her right. Brown caught her hand.
“I wouldn’t do that.” After a brief struggle, Ginny returned her hand to her side. Brown collapsed back into his seat. “So tell me. How do two English teenagers end up on MI5’s comprehensive terrorist watch list? Fall in with the wrong crowd? Find a new religion?”
“I don’t know. We don’t like lists. Not very organized.”
Brown grinned. “And ‘we’ would be you and Mr. Harry Potter. Europe’s answer to Bonnie and Clyde, apparently. Star-crossed lovers pulling capers across the continent.” He closed the file with a snap. “I meant what I said. He’s not coming back.” Ginny made it a point not to let her eyes divert from her companion’s. No weakness, Weasley.
“And not very organized? That’s funny. What about your fancy passport? The strange, untraceable bank account?”
“We found them on a bus. Guess they fell out of someone’s pocket.”
Brown expelled a long stream of air. “Bloody hell. Are you this frustrating to him? Maybe that’s why he ditched you.” Ginny couldn’t help but smirk. Now that she thought about it, sometimes she was…
Brown regained his composure. “Tell me about Gellert Grindelwald.”
“What’s a Nazi?” It was actually an honest question, confirmed by Ginny’s eyes.
“God, the British school system is in the toilet,” Brown said to himself. “And the Shroud of Turin?”
“What’s a Turin?”
Brown literally pulled at the close-cut hair on the top of his head. “Fine. We’ll wait for my associate to come back. He’s a little less patient than I am,” he said as he crossed one leg over the other.
A man came into the room, wearing the same green smock as the rest of the staff, but with a paper mask over his face. He was short and much older than the rest of the staff she had seen, even the healer. He was guiding a bed on wheels next to the bed Ginny was occupying.
“I’m sorry, sir. It’s time for us to run some tests,” the man said to Brown.
“Ok, fine,” Brown replied dismissively before looking up at the orderly, then back to Ginny. “Probably your scans. Once we figure out if your brain is working, maybe you’ll be in a better mood.”
Ginny smirked. “My brain has been working like this for 16 years.”
With considerable difficulty, the orderly pulled Ginny over to the new bed and started pushing her out the door and down the hall. They passed Brown’s associate. Ginny gave him a happy wave and chuckled at the man’s confused expression. She allowed herself to relax.
“Where are we going?”
The orderly gave a kindly smile. “Meeting with a specialist. He’s fixed all sorts of things in the past. He’ll make you feel a lot better.” Was the man speaking with a Scottish accent now? Stupid Muggle potions…
A few minutes later, pair found themselves at the back of another of the Muggle vans with flashing lights.
“Where is this specialist?”
“Just in here, my dear. He’s made a special trip to… assess your condition.” For some reason, that was quite funny to the old man.
After pushing Ginny into the back, the orderly slid into the seat next to her. Another, younger man, was sitting on the other side. His hair was held in a cap that matched his smock and was also wearing one of the paper masks.
“Will you be able to fix me?” Ginny asked as she turned to him.
“I don’t know. I’ve had five years and haven’t made a dent,” he replied, which made his bright green eyes sparkle. He removed his mask.
“You didn’t leave me,” she said as if she were convincing herself.
Harry grinned. “Could you imagine? Voldemort would be the least of my problems then. An army of redheads would be hunting me. That and, you know, I’m sort of attached to you. I just had to run for some help.” He leaned down and kissed Ginny on the forehead. She clutched the collar of his shirt and made the kiss last a lot longer than Harry planned.
The older man lowered his mask and tilted his head. “Father Perceval MacNair. A pleasure, Miss Weasley. Harry, we need to go. It won’t take long for our friend to figure out she hasn’t gone for brain scans.”
“Oh, you might need this,” Harry said as he handed Ginny her wand. She slid it into her hospital gown.
“I’m afraid that Muggle hospital would not have been adequate for your needs, Miss Weasley. I know of much better accommodations for you.”
“The Wizarding hospital?” Both Harry and Perceval nodded. “They’ll be able to fix my leg?”
“Of course, Gin. How many bones have I broken over the years? I think I know something about this.”
“I’m on Muggle potions, Harry. It would be easier to ask how many you haven’t broken.”
Harry chuckled. “It only usually takes a day, not a month. We’ll be back hunting Horcruxes in no time.”
“And where did you get this van?”
“It’s called an ambulance, Miss Weasley. And my employer is quite well connected. Don’t worry. We’re in good hands with Marco here.” The driver gave a wave without his eyes leaving the road.
Now that she was safe, Ginny allowed her eyes to close with the swaying of the drive. After 20 minutes of seemingly endless traffic, Harry squeezed her hand.
“You’re going to want to see this,” he warned with a smile.
They were coming up on a huge, ancient building that had fallen to ruin. It looked almost like a Quidditch stadium made out of stone, with sloping benches and a labyrinth at the bottom. It was surrounded by Muggle tourists, all with their cameras. Perceval flipped on the lights and siren, making the groups stop, stare, and eventually part ways.
At a particular opening, the driver guided the ambulance into the stadium and down a slight ramp. All went momentarily dark before the sun shined again, even though they were underground. It was the same kind of charm used on the ceiling of the Great Hall at Hogwarts, but for an entire neighborhood. Perceval and Harry pulled Ginny’s stretcher out of the ambulance, where a bustling street awaited her. Wizards and witches dressed in togas couldn’t help but stare at the Muggle truck blocking their road. A few smiled mournfully when they saw the shape of Ginny’s leg. She even heard one witch mutter “poor dear” under her breath.
“Right through there, Harry,” Perceval instructed. They pushed Ginny through a set of glass doors that magically swung open under a sign with a cross and Italian writing. When Ginny turned to it, the sign automatically switched to English - The Coliseum Hospital for Wizarding Maladies.
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Chapter 20: Chapter 20 - Haunting
Author's Notes: Sorry for the delay. It looks like I may be able to update more regularly for a while. Thanks to everyone who kept pushing me to work on it during my absence.
"I can hear you!" Ginny yelled out to the hall in front of her room at the Coliseum Hospital, where Harry had his head bowed together with the healer who had been helping Ginny since they arrived. He thanked the witch before coming in with a plastered smile on his face.
"You're supposed to be resting," he said in a sing-song manner.
"I heard her speaking English to you. When I talk to her, she pretends she doesn't understand."
"I don't know why. You seem so friendly and approachable," Henry mused before ducking a pillow.
"I'm ready to go," Ginny announced, swinging her still-bandaged leg over the side of the bed. Harry nearly missed catching her when it gave out but was able to wedge his arms under hers just in time. She still squirmed as he returned her to a reclined position.
"You know Skele-Gro takes a day or more to take effect. We've been here an hour.” Ginny gave no response, instead choosing to look out her window at the mass of people milling about in Rome's magical neighborhood under the Coliseum. She noticed many families, with children leading their parents across the street from one shop to the other. Then it dawned on Ginny: school would be starting soon. She loved this time of year, mainly because that’s when Harry Potter would arrive at her house. Things were a little different this year.
Aside from the motorbike accident, she had loved her time with Harry out in the Muggle world, but it calmed her to know she was amongst her people again, able to talk freely and feel safe again. She could even perform magic at will - if Harry hadn't taken her wand away during her first tantrum.
"Why can’t you..." Harry began before realizing the error in what he was about to say.
"Why can’t I what?" she asked as she turned back to him with narrow eyes. Too late.
"It's just... Ron never seems to mind being laid up in the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts."
Ginny’s ears, already red from frustration, now looked as though they were glowing. "So you were going to say why can't I be more like Ron?"
"l..." Harry felt himself unconsciously inch his hand to his wand pocket.
"You're so lucky I don't have my wand right now," she growled.
"I know," Harry whispered, looking out into the hall for help… any help at all. It wasn't coming. Meanwhile, the patient was still giving him a stare.
"You know, some of the worst times of my life have been in hospitals. My father after the snake attack. Hermione after I petrified her in my first year. If you only knew how much time I've spent watching over you in the Hospital Wing after accidents that I usually saw myself. I would sneak in after everyone else had gone to sleep, always fearing the worst even though everyone else thought you were untouchable. So you will excuse me if I’m a bit uncomfortable with my current situation."
Harry turned back to her, his eyes still fearful but softer. "I knew."
"You knew what?"
"I knew about you sneaking into the Hospital Wing. Most of the time I was just pretending to be asleep."
Ginny shot up from her pillow. "What? Why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you tell anyone?"
"Because if I did, you would've stopped coming," Harry replied simply.
And just like that, Ginny's will to remain furious at him deflated like a balloon. She took his hand.
"You wouldn't have gotten rid of me that easy. Still can’t."
He smiled at her. "Besides, it's about time I get to return the favor. I felt horrible having to leave you in that Muggle hospital."
"I understand, Harry. You needed to figure out another way. I wouldn't have survived a month in there, with their butchers cutting me open every chance they got. I'm grateful."
"How grateful?" he asked with a wag of his eyebrows. Ginny slapped him or the shoulder harder than she meant to, electing a yelp.
"Only you would proposition an infirmed, crippled lady in the hospital," Ginny scolded while trying to hide a blush. It wasn't long before her eyelids started feeling heavy.
True to his word, Harry was at her bedside when she awoke, his hand resting over hers. It looked as though he hadn't let her peaceful face out of his sight. The feeling Ginny received upon seeing this made every second she had spent in the Hogwarts Hospital Wing standing vigil over him worth it.
"How do you feel?" Harry asked.
"Better. More peaceful."
"I think everyone’s grateful for that," he replied with a grin. "Are you up for talking about the mission?"
Ginny smiled. "I thought you would never ask."
Harry pulled her hand to his mouth and kissed her palm before walking to the door and casting a Muffliato charm. He then returned to the chair he had occupied for untold hours.
"The healers say you'll be released this evening. I would say that we should find an inn and make sure you're fully rested before we continue, but I know there is about as much chance of that as Ron being Minister for Magic."
"Too right, my gorgeous beau. As soon as this foot hits the floor, we're back on the hunt!”
Harry smirked. "I thought you would say that. On that front, there's some bad news. You had all of our research and Regulus's work when the motorbike hit you. I was too worried about you to pick it up, so I'm sure the Muggle police have it now. Not that they know what it means."
Ginny's brows knitted. "Strange. Mr. Brown didn't mention anything, and he knew a lot about us."
Harry tilted his head. "Mr. Who?"
"Oh! Gum Man is Mr. Brown from Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He tried to question me before Father Perceval rescued me.”
"And how did that go for him?"
"About what you'd expect."
Harry smiled. "That bad, huh?"
But Ginny had shifted into business mode. “He didn't mention anything about the maps, though. He did say we are on some terrorism list."
"That’s how Voldemort is getting everyone to look for us, even the Muggles. The longer we go on, the more Muggles will be on our trail. But it's not like there aren't risks in the Wizarding world, either.
Ginny sighed. “I'm sorry, Harry. I made this much harder, didn't I?"
"No! It's just another challenge, that's all. That accident made me realize that this would have been impossible without you. I don't know... if I would've gone on."
"You would've. Because you know I would come back to haunt you if you gave up,” Ginny replied with a smirk.
Harry retook her hand. "But we do have a plan. Well, sort of. Perceval's office apparently has a lot of art. We may not have any pictures of what we need, but we at least have got a place to start looking. He said his boss has allowed him to give us a private tour when you're ready for it."
“How much have you told him, Harry?”
“Nothing about the Horcruxes. He thinks we are just on the run from Voldemort, so we’ve had to move around a lot to avoid the authorities. It didn’t hurt that he saw you with Mr. Brown.”
Ginny put her hand to her chin. “But he knows we were in Turin with the Archbishop.”
“I couldn’t get around that part. He and the Archbishop are friends.”
She shrugged. “I guess we’ll take what we can get. But what are the chances we’ll be able to destroy the next Horcrux if he’s around?”
“I’m sure we’ll think of something. One step at a time - and in your case, that means literally.” She stuck her tongue out at him.
The car Perceval had sent for them, with the ambulance driver Marco making another appearance, seemed to have some protection. Without lights or sirens, people seemed just to sense when they needed to move out of the way. It turned a trip to most of Rome during sunset, with its throngs of Muggle tourists, into an enjoyable diversion. Ginny looked out the window while the other traveler did the same on his side, their hands meeting in the middle and never wavering.
“I wish we could’ve spent more time here,” Ginny mused. “Rome looks enchanting and exciting at the same time. At least, how the Muggles treat it.”
“Perhaps we’ll come back on our honeymoon.”
Ginny’s breath caught. She was afraid to move a single muscle but turned anyway to see if there was a joking grin in the corner of his mouth. She was expecting him to start laughing at the joke as Ron would. He wasn’t. Frankly, she was surprised Harry hadn’t jumped out of the moving car out of embarrassment. But he just sat there in the same position, occasionally turning his head to get a better look at something that passed him. Ginny was the best person in the world to read his mind, and she was still drawing a blank. Ginny could have filled a book with the questions she wanted to ask (and the ideas she had had since she was 8), but it wasn’t the time. They were fighting to make sure that time came. Instead, she said calmly, “That would be nice,” and gave his hand a squeeze.
Perceval was awaiting their arrival with his hands clasped behind his plain white robes in front of columns that seemed to reach forever. Surrounding them was the largest piazza either Ginny or Harry had seen in Rome, with one end dominated by a high copper dome and the center anchored by an obelisk that seemed to scrape the twilight sky. A smattering of tourists and pilgrims wandered from one side of the plaza to the other, saying prayers or pointing at different sights.
“My friends! Welcome to the Vatican!” the wizard priest exclaimed as he extended a hand first to Harry, then Ginny. “I am so happy to see your outstanding recovery, Miss Weasley. How do you feel?”
“I could play a Quidditch match right now if one were available,” she replied with a smile.
Perceval chortled. “Although I would love to see it, I’m sure having a match in the middle of St. Peter’s Square is against the Statute of Secrecy.” He waved his arm to guide them into the large hall that was awaiting. “I was a fair beater back in my days at Hogwarts. Even earned a detention or two from Dumbledore for - how did he put it? - ‘conduct unbecoming of a sportsman.'”
“My brothers received a lifetime ban because of the same kinds of things.”
“I always believed beaters needed to have an edge, the willingness to do whatever it takes to win. Not to say the other positions do not try their best. Chasers, in particular, seem unwilling to give up.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Harry mumbled.
Ginny’s eyes narrowed at him. “Seekers, on the other hand, are the primadonnas of the Quidditch pitch. Wouldn’t you agree, Father? It must be nice to spend a few hours lazing about above the action, then swoop in at the last moment and be cheered as a hero.”
“You’ve played just as much seeker as chaser, Gin,” Harry reminded her.
“You mean those times we’ve won the Quidditch Cup? I had forgotten…” Ginny turned and batted her eyelashes at Harry. “That being said, it could be argued you took the best prize after last year’s Cup.” Ginny could see him enter into the memory of their celebration after last year’s win, the first time he had kissed her, just as she had hoped. He was so predictable!
Perceval cleared his throat as he pulled to a stop in the lobby of the largest building on the square. “Harry mentioned you were interested in seeing some art and relics while you here on the continent. I venture to say the Vatican has one of the greatest collections of such items in the world. Any idea where you would like to start?”
To both of them, the pictures of what they were looking for were hazy, especially since the potions the Muggles gave Ginny had seemed to muddle that time in her brain. But the two potential options in Rome were right on top of the pile, so they were the best remembered.
“We have heard of one sculpture, but I’ve forgotten its name,” Harry said. “It has a young man laying across a woman’s lap. It looks like he’s dead.”
Perceval clapped his hands together. “Of course, the Pieta. It is truly breathtaking, and not far from here at all. Just down this hall a bit.” He swept them in the correct direction.
“Do you feel anything?” Ginny whispered. Harry just shook his head. Passing one priceless work of art and then another, the group made a turn into a smaller chapel. No matter that Harry and Ginny weren’t the sculpture’s “intended audience,” both of their mouths fell open at the sight of the Pieta. They were used to art that moved and interacted with you. This piece, from the hands of an ordinary Muggle, appeared as if it could do the same.
“It was begun by the Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarotti in 1498 and finished about two years later,” Perceval began as if he were a tour guide. “It is solid marble and has sat at this spot for the last 200 years or so.”
“It’s gorgeous,” Ginny breathed while still keeping one eye on Harry, searching for any reaction to it at all. He seemed to be unaffected.
“So that is…”
“Christ, yes Harry, after his crucifixion, being held by his mother, Mary.”
“She looks so young,” Ginny remarked. When she turned to Harry to seek his opinion or the state of his scar, she found him staring at the sculpture with a look somewhere between guilt and anger before recognizing why - it was a mother trying to protect her son. In fact, Harry’s mum had a statue as well back in their world. She took Harry’s hand and he pulled her closer. She laid her head against his shoulder.
“I can give you some time if you like…” Perceval wedged awkwardly.
“No, I think we’re ready for the next piece,” Harry said.
“And that is?”
“A painting,” Ginny recalled. “Angels and gods playing amongst the clouds.”
Perceval chuckled. “I’m afraid you will have to be a bit more specific, Miss Weasley. There are quite a few angels and gods around here.”
Ginny put her tongue against her teeth. “It was very colorful. It seemed large, too, although all we saw was a picture.”
Perceval smiled. “I think I know the painting of which you speak. It is in the chapel next door and is also work from Michelangelo. This way.”
The group entered the next room, a grand, open space about 40 feet tall. It seemed as though every inch of the walls was covered in scenes depicting various stories. Even though they all looked roughly like the picture Harry and Ginny remembered, none matched exactly and they weren’t large enough.
Only five feet from the threshold of the entryway, Harry fell to the marble floor, holding his scar and screaming. Ginny fell to his side, her hands resting on his heaving chest. She couldn’t remember him ever being in more pain, as if the entire building was the Horcrux.
“It’s...here,” was all he could say. Ginny craned her neck around, looking for anything familiar on which to focus while still monitoring his condition. Nothing seemed as they remembered from the picture Regulus left them. When Ginny went back to Harry’s face, she noticed that his eyes were widened with fear and could not stop staring straight up. She followed them.
Ginny’s memory of the painting for which they were looking came to life in living color. It covered the entire ceiling of this massive room.
But she didn’t even have time to consider how to tackle the problem. A flying red blade of light passed by her ear, only inches to the right of her head, and shattered into the marble nearby.
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