|SIYE Time:1:13 on 14th December 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: 24506; Chapter Total: 959
Awards: View Trophy Room
“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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