|SIYE Time:23:58 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: 27161; Chapter Total: 1147
Awards: View Trophy Room
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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