|SIYE Time:23:57 on 21st February 2018|
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: 27157; Chapter Total: 1135
Awards: View Trophy Room
Harry 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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