Disclaimer: Anything you recognise belongs to their respective owners, J. and Markus Zusak. Everything else is mine.
A Fateful Encounter: Grindelwald and The Book Thief
* Here Is A Small Fact *
There has only ever been
to have tricked Death.
His name was
But in the end, even he had to die.
Everyone has to die.
That is the cycle of life.
Now, you may be wondering what the reason behind my mentioning Ignotus Peverell is, but you will find that out by the end of this story. If the mention of his name has led you to the conclusion that this is a story of the infamous Peverell brothers, then you are sorely mistaken.
As the title of this story suggests, this is the tale of a great encounter.
The fateful meeting of a certain gravely injured Dark Wizard and a scrawny book thief of thirteen.
I saw the book thief three times, and the Dark Wizard several times more.
And each time, I was not waiting for them.
* A Beginning *
Every story has a beginning, of course.
This one begins in the way you would imagine a
tale as great as this would.
A burning building.
Truth be told, I hardly have enough words to go around to recount this tale, let alone start at the very beginning.
So I'm just going to have to jump right into the thick of things.
The thickness, as it turned out, was the lung-burning, eye-watering conglomeration of dense smoke clouds that rose up from the burning German Ministry of Magic.
The year was 1942, and the day was the fourth of September.
It marked the day Himmel Street was faced with the very real danger of their first air raid, and the day Gellert Grindelwald slipped through my fingers by means of a very well-timed Disapparation.
The story is as you presume it to be.
The Muggles—a term I have come to find just as endearing as Saumensch and Saukerl—thought it would be intelligent an idea to make the skies rain explosives and fire and blood. And I, as usual, was meant to clean up after them.
So as I wandered about collecting the innocent souls of the fallen, I chanced upon something fantastic: two wizards battling it out amidst the raging fires of war.
What a sight to behold that was. I admit to having shirked my duties for a moment too long in order to witness the sheer magnificence of their duel.
Before I continue, I must take a moment to explain to you the brilliance of it all. Not that I'm suggesting so, but Gellert Grindelwald might have been one of the greatest, most genius Dark Wizards of all time. No one could possibly find any fault in his foolproof plan of using the World War II as a means of razing the Ministries of Magic and several other locations of continental Europe to the ground.
But someone did.
And that someone just so happened to be the single, most powerful wizard that Grindelwald feared.
And so you have your beginning and I have the satisfaction of recounting an epic battle.
* A Slight Complication *
Unfortunately, there is always trouble in paradise.
Grindelwald was so engrossed in his
battle with Dumbledore
that he failed to notice the single flaw in his great plan.
The air raids.
That's right, you've guessed it.
Gellert Grindelwald, evil mastermind that he was, underestimated the firepower of the Muggle weaponry that rained down on him, inevitably leading to his near death. If not for that well-timed Apparition I mentioned previously, this tale wouldn't exist.
And thus, I now arrive at the actual beginning of this story, as recounted by none other than the book thief herself, and narrated by yours truly, through hurriedly scrawled pages that still hold the sharp smell of paint.
* A Bit of Luck *
Whoever said a Dark Wizard couldn't
use some old-fashioned luck?
As it so happened, whether this luck was good or bad, we will never know.
But for the sake of this story, let us assume luck was on Grindelwald's side when his emergency Disapparition landed him right in the middle of the Amper River, in which he lay floating, idly watching the ash grey and blood red sky 'til he could no longer feel the excruciating pain from the severe burns all over his body. He then dragged himself out of the river and laid haphazardly on the bank, gasping for breath.
Before he could so much as allow his swimming vision to settle, he could hear the faraway sound of sirens and feel the familiar pressure of the air being pummelled and ripped apart as more explosives zoomed overhead, heading towards the small town some way off from where he was.
What happened next could be considered nothing more than an impulsive decision on the part of a semi-conscious, injured wizard who had just suffered reasonable trauma by means of a bombing.
And so, Grindelwald, in all his scorched, delusional glory, used what was left of his magical reserves to alter the course of the missile so it skittered right over the little town of Molching and landed… well, somewhere that wasn't Himmel Street, and that's good enough for us and our other protagonist.
Thirteen-year-old Liesel Meminger.
Otherwise known as the book thief.
* The Fated Meeting *
Well, it couldn't be considered so much a meeting
than a chanced discovery by two
very curious youngsters who happened to be
in the midst of committing a crime.
Stealing potatoes from the nearby farm.
Rudy Steiner, who was, for all intents and purposes, our protagonist's right-hand man, was the first to discover the body.
'Oi, Saumensch, I think we can use that rotting log to climb over the fence,' was the first reaction at having caught sight of Grindelwald.
'What log?' was the second.
'That log. Can't you see?'
By this point, Rudy had wandered over to the so-called log and had begun prodding it with his shoe, all the while watching our other protagonist with a superior grin on his muddy face.
Liesel Meminger, having finally reached her friend, squinted down at the log and said, 'Saukerl, I think that's… a person.'
Rudy paused mid-prod and stared down at the body wide-eyed, having realised that the patch of dirty, dried grass was actually someone's hair.
'Arschloch! Is he breathing?'
Liesel squatted down and tentatively stuck her face close to the body's. She pulled away after a moment, wide-eyed and pale, and nodded once.
'I think he's alive.'
Rudy didn't seem too happy to hear this for two reasons.
* The Workings of Rudy Steiner's Mind *
1. Whether or not Liesel was joking, they'd both end up getting waschens.
2. A living person would be of less use to them than a dead one.
'Maybe we should tell someone,' Liesel began, already inching away from the body and her best friend.
'Don't be stupid. I've already got enough waschens this week without voluntarily asking for one.'
'You always voluntarily ask for one.'
Rudy yelled 'Saumensch!' and took off after Lesiel, brandishing one of his shoes over his head. It was a few minutes later that the two returned, panting, having remembered that they'd found a living person lying on the riverside and had to investigate further.
'I really think we should tell someone, Rudy,' Liesel was saying as Rudy, in all his foolish bravery, got very close to the body and smacked its forehead. Hard.
There was a mighty groan and a dark tongue that flicked out to lick burnt lips, and the two children screamed bloody murder as they turned tail and ran for their lives.
* The Second, More Useful Encounter *
Rudy finally plucked up his courage
to ask Liesel out on a date.
The date entailed riding their bikes to the river
to see if their corpse friend was still alive.
In the day that had transpired between their first and second encounters, Grindelwald had regained a fair bit of his strength.
At least enough to crawl to the closest tree and heal the worst of his wounds.
The pain had knocked him out an hour or two before the arrival of our two lovebirds.
'Saumench, look! He's moved!'
'I told you he was alive.'
The acknowledgement of having been right was the sole reason for Liesel to stalk up to the tree, some leftover plaster and waste cloth stolen from the cupboard under Rosa Hubermann's sink in hand, and peer at the injured man. No sooner had she discovered that his injuries seemed better than when she had first seen him, Rudy let out a sharp yelp.
'Oi, look out!'
But it was too late.
Before she could take a step backwards, the man had reached up and grabbed her arm, piercing blue eyes locked with her own, murky brown ones.
He opened his mouth and closed it.
Opened it again and closed it.
The grasp on her arm loosened and she stumbled backwards, falling hard on her bottom.
'Shh, Saukerl, I think he's trying to speak.' Despite the thundering of her heart and the film of sweat above her brow, she leaned in closer, curiosity getting the better of her.
'Liesel, come on! Let's go!' Rudy was pleading, for once, but Liesel was too engrossed in trying to decipher the movement of the mysterious stranger's chapped lips to heed his request.
'I think… Rudy, I think he wants…quick, get some water!'
Rudy blinked. 'What?'
'Wasser, Saukerl! Water!'
Rudy fumbled, looking panicked, but it only took the snap of Lesiel's head in his direction and her urgent glare for him to rush down to the river, grab his shoe, dip it in the cool water, and return with it splashing everywhere.
'Ugh, you used your shoe?'
'What, you want me to use a cup, Saumensch? Should I make a picnic while I'm at it?'
Liesel simply scoffed at him as she grabbed the weathered shoe and brought it to the man's mouth. He scrunched his nose and turned his face away, causing Liesel to throw an I told you so look at Rudy over her shoulder, but the man drank from the shoe nonetheless, his thirst getting the better of him.
'See, he doesn't have a problem drinking from my shoe.'
'If he doesn't die now, then you can be happy.'
* Humans' Ability to Adapt *
It always fascinates me, humans' ability to adapt to any situation.
In this case, it was Grindelwald's ability to drink
from a thirteen-year-old's sweaty shoe,
and Liesel and Rudy's ability to manufacture a
make-shift sleigh from broken branches and their bikes.
And thus, the patient was transferred to a more suitable location: an old, decrepit barn that stank of animal excrement and rotten fodder.
Liesel wasn't very sure if it was a good idea to drag an injured man across the rocky ground using their bikes.
Rudy was delighted by the very thought of it.
'I told you it would work,' Rudy gloated as they heaved the man over to the cleanest looking pile of hay and dumped him on it.
'I think his injuries got worse.'
'What injuries? All I see is mud and filth. This Saukerl looks like he was dragged through a fertilised field.'
Rudy grinned wide when Liesel threw him a dirty look before turning back to her patient. 'Rudy, go get some water from the river. I want to clean his wounds.'
'The river is far—'
'I'll tell everyone you fed a dying man water from your dirty shoe.' Rudy didn't seem deterred. 'With your mouth.'
That did the trick. Rudy muttered an angry Arschlosch and rode off down to the river, returning ten minutes later with two pails full of water balancing from each of his bike's handles.
'Give them here,' Liesel instructed as she diligently ripped the waste cloth into strips to make bandages.
'How about a kiss first, Saumensch?'
'With your mouth?'
Rudy made a grating sound in the back of his throat as he pushed the bike over, took the pails off the handlebars, and kept them on the ground, after which he helped Liesel clean the man's injuries.
* The Customary Reading to the Sick *
The next time Liesel and Rudy visited Grindelwald,
the girl came with a book.
She read to him in between cleaning his wounds
and narrating the tale of her adventures.
The book of choice: The Song in The Dark.
Rudy initially seemed alright with the idea of reading to the sick, but after realising that all of Liesel's idle time became devoted to musing out loud about her mystery patient and when he would wake up and what story she should tell him next, the boy didn't seem to like it all that much.
He suffered from a common ailment that thirteen-year-old boys who were unrequitedly in love with their best friends were prone to: jealousy.
Liesel, of course, couldn't care less for Rudy's disapproval of her nursing methods.
'If you don't like it, then go home, Saukerl,' she told him one dreary afternoon when he wouldn't stop grumbling about her telling some stranger her life's story.
In his defence, his argument was pretty solid. ('Even I don't know all that much about you!' )
To her, and my, surprise, he did as he was told. 'Fine, I will! Just don't come crying to me when he dies!'
But she did notice the hidden smile as he drove off and knew that he would come back to get her before sundown. Meanwhile, she turned back to her patient and began a new tale.
* The Life Story of Liesel Meminger by Liesel Meminger *
1. The death of her brother, Werner
2. Mama and Papa Hubermann, pea soup and the accordion
3. How she came to be called the book thief
4. The Jew in the basement
5. Her precious treasures: the stolen books, and Ilsa Hermann
6. The missing page in The Song in The Dark
7. Rudy Steiner, the boy she will someday kiss
Disregarding the heart-breaking irony of the last tale, Liesel continued to narrate these stories to the comatose Grindelwald the moment Rudy left her to her own devices.
She was under the impression that her stories and careful nursing was helping her patient.
She was right.
About a month after they mistook the mysterious injured man lying on the river bank to be a rotten log (and a few days before Hans Hubermann was called off to war), Liesel and Rudy—who had finally succumbed to Liesel's infectious excitement regarding a certain apparently cured patient—arrived at the barn to find that their mystery man was nowhere to be seen.
'Saumensch, I know you said he was healing, but you didn't tell me he was well enough to walk around,' Rudy said as he peered out of the barn.
'He wasn't! He didn't open his eyes once this whole time or show any signs of waking up! There's no way he could walk. I'm sure of it.'
'Well,' Rudy stood with his feet apart and arms crossed, 'where is he, then?'
Liesel continued to stare at the pile of hay that had the indentation of a grown man on it. 'I… don't know.'
'Of course you don't know! You're no doctor, how would you know if he's well enough or not?'
Liesel ignored the truth in what Rudy had said, and, walking over to the hay, pressed her palm against it. 'It's still warm,' she murmured, eyes flitting around as she tried to find some sign of her mystery patient.
Her eyes landed on a crumpled, folded piece of paper. The jagged edges made it seem as though it was ripped from a book. Eyes widening, she thought back to the torn page in The Song in the Dark and briefly wondered why she'd never suspected that her mystery patient could have been the culprit. She quickly hid it under her shirt as Rudy came up behind her.
'Well? Did you find anything?'
'No.' She grabbed his arm and steered him out of the barn. 'If he's gone, he's gone. Nothing we can do about it.'
Rudy eyed her with a suspicious frown. It wasn't like Liesel Meminger to leave a mystery unsolved. 'What, that's it? You're giving up just like that?'
But the book thief's mind was too focused on the letter scratching her bosom to notice Rudy's scepticism. She nodded as she straddled her bike and took off down the road. 'Come on, Rudy, it's nearly sundown! It'll be waschens for us if we're not home soon!'
'Wait, Saumensch!' came Rudy's reply, and the two raced back to Himmel Street. The mystery man's letter was stuck to Liesel's skin the whole way home. Later, she would file it away in her book and it would remain there for a long, long time.
* The Contents of The Letter *
It was very short and precise.
Just a haphazard scrawl that resembled the word Danke,
and a strange symbol.
This is where we return to the very beginning of this story.
Before the beginning, I mean.
Remember Ignotus Peverell?
Yes, well, he seemed to have played a rather insignificantly significant role in the preservation of the book thief's book.
How, you ask? Well, I've already told you that.
Ignotus Peverell was the master of Death.
And thus, The Book Thief became a timeless treasure that would be passed on for generations and never succumb to even Death.
What great magic did Grindelwald leave the thirteen-year-old girl who saved his life and told him stories, you ask?
He left her a letter.
And a strange symbol.
The Deathly Hallows.
A/n: Saumensch and Saukerl are insults used in German for females and males respectively that is akin to bitch and bastard. Waschen literally means to wash, but that's what they call corporal punishment in The Book Thief. Danke means thank you.
This was written for Round 12 of the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition where we had to write crossovers for the genres assigned to us. I got books, and the book I chose was The Book Thief. For those of you who haven't read it, go read it now it is the most amazing thing ever you have my word for it.
Special thanks to my dear friend SeeingEye and my wonderful beta, lokilette for proof-reading.
Hope you enjoyed it!
Lots of love~