|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: 27164; Chapter Total: 1362
Awards: View Trophy Room
Chapter 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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