|SIYE Time:1:28 on 19th August 2017|
Category: Alternate Universe
Genres: Action/Adventure, Romance
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations
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.
Hitcount: Story Total: 18836; Chapter Total: 863
Awards: View Trophy Room
Chapter 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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