Chapter 1 – Odyssey
I'm pleased to announce that my long promised Slytherin! Harry story is completed and the first chapter is presented here for your reading pleasure.
Right, a few warnings first: this is the darkest thing I've ever written and no one in this tale is particularly nice, not even Harry. This will definitely be a Grey! Harry tale, although I prefer to think of him as a ruthlessly efficient soldier who is highly motivated and not afraid to do what it takes to win. Ginny (who will make an appearance in chapter 2) is also quite unlike her canon character, although nothing like she's portrayed in many Slytherin! Harry tales (either a victim or a slut).
After this introduction chapter, I'll only be telling part of Harry's backstory, mainly by using flashback sequences, which will appear in italics. These sections will mostly appear at the start of chapters and, just to be confusing, aren't chronological. They will generally have some relevance to the attached chapter, however.
I'm delighted to say I have Arnel back on board as my beta and she's already done sterling work weeding out my errors. It's great to be working with her again!
Note on the story title
Odysseus, also known to the Romans as Ulysses, was legendary Greek hero and subject of Homer's epic poem 'Odyssey'. While the Greeks revered him, the Romans believed him a villainous falsifier, and referred to him as 'cruel' or 'deceitful' Odysseus. I felt that character had many similarities to Harry in this story, although, to be fair, Harry doesn't get any nymphs or witch-goddesses pregnant here. I'll probably save that for my next story…
"Hey, Gellert, I've got a present for you!" cried a cheerful voice.
Gellert Grindelwald opened his eyes and turned his gaze to the small, barred window set into the heavy door of his cell. He could just make out the bright smile of Stefan, one of the younger guards assigned to Nurmengard Prison, through the metal bars. Smiling to himself, Gellert climbed to his feet and approached the door.
"Good morning, Stefan, you are well, I trust?" Gellert greeted the young man pleasantly.
"I'm more than well, my friend. I did as you suggested and asked Marina out last night and she said yes! I'm taking her out this Friday. I think I'll take her to the fair to start with, then on for a meal and drinks," Stefan said enthusiastically.
A chuckle escaped Gellert's throat. "Did I not say that all you had to do was ask? Trust me, I may be an old man now, but I know a thing or two about the minds of pretty young girls," he laughed softly.
"You were right. I can't wait until Friday. Marina is the most beautiful girl in the whole village, I can't believe she agreed to go out with me," Stefan said, shaking his head.
"There is nothing wrong with you, my young friend. Marina sounds like a delightful young lady, and I'm sure you'll both have a splendid time," Gellert assured him.
"I hope so. Anyway, as a small thank you, I've brought you a copy of today's newspaper," Stefan said and pushed a rolled-up paper through the bars of the window.
"Why, thank you, Stefan. You know how much I enjoy reading the news," Gellert replied, pulling the gift through the gap gratefully.
"Oh, there's a British newspaper there, too. Someone brought it in a while ago and left it. I thought you might like that, as well," the guard added.
"Undoubtedly, although my English is a little rusty, I'm afraid. I'm sure it will be an interesting challenge to see what I can remember," Gellert replied with a smile.
"Well, I'd better finish my rounds. Thanks for the advice again," Stefan said and, with a wave of his hand, was gone.
Gellert took his gifts back to his bunk and sat down to read. A newspaper was a rare treat for him. None of the older guards would ever consider giving him such a thing, as most of them had lost family during the last war. Stefan was young enough that the terrible battles of the forties were just something he read about in history books. Removing his glasses from his top pocket, Gellert sat on his bunk and began to read.
After an hour or so, he sadly put the paper down. The world outside was moving on, and most of the stories just had no meaning or relevance to him. He looked about at his small, barren cell and sighed. If he truly wished to, he had little doubt he could engineer an escape from this place, but he chose willingly to remain where he was. It was pretty much by personal choice that he was here in the first place, serving penance for the terrible crimes that he committed. Too late had he realised the folly of his actions and how misguided were his attempts at world domination. Remorse had filled him, and he therefore readily allowed himself to be confined here in the prison he had once held captive so many of his enemies.
Feeling depressed, he reached for the English language paper, hoping this would provide him with some distraction. He snorted with derision when he unfolded it and found it was a copy of The Daily Prophet, a worthless rag of a paper. Still, anything was better than sitting here stewing in his own misery.
His interest was captured by a small, grainy picture on page two which appeared to show a young boy staring into the camera lens in surprise. Wondering why the paper would publish such a thing, he read the accompanying text.
The Daily Prophet can now confirm that this picture is definitely of Harry Potter, the famous Boy Who Lived. Freelance photographer, Miles Juniper, managed to capture the shot in the Muggle town of Slough purely by chance. Mr Juniper was quoted as saying that as soon as he saw the legendary lightning bolt-shaped scar on the boy's forehead, he knew who he was looking at.
Little is known of Harry Potter's home life, and the Ministry has refused to comment on the matter. It is widely rumoured, however, that Mr Potter's magical guardian is none other than Albus Dumbledore, who took the role after Harry's parents, James and Lily Potter, were tragically killed by You-Know-Who on the thirty-first of October, nineteen eighty-one. Harry remains the only known person to have survived the Killing Curse, which was responsible for giving him his famous scar.
Mr Juniper commented that young Harry was dressed in a strange Muggle fashion and…
Gellert stopped reading and stared at the picture once again. Sure enough, he could just make out the scar on the boy's forehead. He put the paper down and started to think. Too many things here didn't make sense. The Killing Curse worked, much like the Cruciatus Curse, by attacking the nervous system. Once it hit its intended victim, the Killing Curse would instantly shut down all electrical energy in the body, causing every major organ to stop functioning within milliseconds. There was no way it should ever leave a scar.
More to the point, why was his old foe Albus Dumbledore getting involved in the boy's life? It was possible he was a good friend of the Potters and was named as Harry's guardian in their will, but somehow Gellert doubted it. While Albus was happy teaching children, he could never imagine the man actually looking after one. Mind you, the boy looked badly under-nourished and Gellert doubted that those pitiful rags were some 'Muggle fashion'. They were probably exactly what they appeared to be: rags.
Gellert shifted himself further back onto his bunk, as he considered what he knew about this He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or, more correctly, Voldemort, if you chose to ignore all that rubbish. He'd followed the man's rise with muted interest. Britain was, after all, far away and he had no connection with this new Dark Lord. Gellert did abhor Voldemort's politics, however. When he'd been trying to take over the world, it was in an effort to improve it and lead the Muggles to a brighter future. This madman just wanted to kill everyone who wasn't magical. It reeked too much of the death camps his former lackeys had insisted they set up. Blaming all your troubles on the Muggles was just the same as blaming it on the Jews, and Gellert had learnt what rubbish that was to his cost.
Even if he was deranged, this Voldemort was clearly immensely powerful. One thing that Gellert had noticed with interest was the way the man strangely changed in appearance as the years progressed. When the war in Britain had begun in earnest in the early seventies, Voldemort had looked relatively human, but by the time this Harry Potter caused his downfall in nineteen eighty-one, his appearance was oddly altered. If anyone had chosen to ask him what might have caused such a thing, Gellert would have answered honestly, but no one did. Still, the knowledge made Voldemort's defeat at the hands of a small boy even stranger, to his mind.
Something was rotten here, and he would lay odds that Albus Dumbledore was at the bottom of it.
But even if Dumbledore was involved, what was it to do with him? He'd long since vowed that he would die within these four walls, a fitting ending for someone who had caused as much pain and suffering as he had. The woes of the world were no longer anything to do with him.
On the other hand, if he just ignored this situation, wasn't he guilty of causing more suffering by his inaction? Gellert had very little faith that Dumbledore would handle the situation well. The man simply didn't have the strength of will to do the right thing and was far too forgiving. If left to his own devices, Dumbledore would probably lead them all to ruin. Did he dare to stand back and let Britain and, eventually, Europe burn again? It was a frightening thought.
For two days, Gellert meditated in his cell. He refused the meagre meals he was offered, and didn't once move from his position of sitting cross-legged on his bunk. On the second day, clarity came to him and he gingerly unfolded his stiff legs. After an unavoidable trip to the bucket that served as his toilet, he stood and stared out of the tiny, barred window, set high in the wall. The sky outside was an iron-grey colour, without a single break in the thick, snow-filled clouds. Soon, for the first time in over forty-five years, he would walk a free man under those clouds, and feel the weak winter sun on his face. But first, he had to free himself in such a way that wouldn't draw attention. He sat back on his bunk and began to formulate a plan.
Several hours later, Stefan came by on his rounds and Gellert called to him. It was a simple matter to overwhelm the young man's mind just by establishing eye contact. Although he was a fine fellow, Stefan's mental defences were non-existent and Gellert was able to implant his instructions into his mind without difficulties. Forcing down the feelings of guilt he had at using the only friend he had in such a manner, Gellert returned to his bunk to wait.
It was three days before Stefan was able to find what he needed. At two o'clock in the morning, Gellert was awoken by the sound of his cell door opening and Stefan entering. The young man held his wand out in front of him, like he was going to cast a spell, but Gellert realised he was really Levitating a Disillusioned object. Stefan set his invisible burden down on Gellert's now vacated bunk and cancelled the Disillusionment Spell.
Gellert examined the corpse of the old man intently. He was approximately the same height and build as him, and his features weren't too dissimilar. No, this body would do perfectly.
"Where did you find him? Will he be missed?" Gellert asked the young man gruffly.
"In a mortuary at Stuttgart," Stefan replied. "The man is a tramp and was found dead in a park yesterday. I Confunded the Medical Examiner, and I was able to remove the body without problems."
"Ah, I always thought you were a smart, lad," Gellert praised. "Did you manage to find me a wand?"
Silently, Stefan reached into his robes and pulled out a wand made of dark wood. Gellert gave it an experiment wave and was pleased to see that it responded to him reasonably well. He would probably get a better one later, but this would certainly do for now.
Setting to work, Gellert began to Transfigure the old tramp's face into a perfect match of his own. He then continued to work down the dead man's body until he was satisfied that he was an exact replica of himself.
"Did you bring me new clothes?" he demanded of the young guard. Stefan's only response was to hand him a small bag which, on examination contained a complete change of clothing. Eagerly, he shed the tattered prison uniform he had worn for many years and dressed himself in his new outfit. He then transferred his old clothes to the tramp. Once he was finished, he turned back to Stefan.
"You have done me a great service, my friend, and I am sorry that I have had to treat you in this manner. Tomorrow, you will return to this cell and find the body. My Transfigurations should last a good few weeks, so as far anyone will be concerned I died a natural death. I will leave here now, and we will not meet again in this life. Before I go, I must remove your memories of these events for both your safety and mine. Goodbye, my fine friend," Gellert said warmly, before pointing his new wand at the young man's head. "Obliviate!"
Once that was done, Gellert walked out of the cell without a moment's hesitation and immediately cast a Disillusionment Charm on himself. A second later, a confused looking Stefan followed him out, locking the door behind him. The young guard then hesitantly headed down the corridor, clearly unsure why he was in this part of the prison, at all. Gellert watched him go sadly.
After allowing Stefan enough time to get ahead, Gellert headed down the corridor himself. He'd helped design this prison and knew it like the back of his hand, and he was confident he could get out of the building without difficulties. He would then need to find a place to stay for a few days while he gathered money and supplies. Once that was done, he would head for England and see if he could discover exactly what was happening over there. Something wasn't right, and he was certain that Albus Dumbledore was behind it.
One day, Harry Potter's life became so miserable that he wished to die.
It was the evening of the twenty-fifth of December, nineteen-ninety, and Harry had just crawled onto his thin mattress inside the under-stairs cupboard that served as a bedroom for him. He was bone tired and in considerable pain, but no tears fell from his eyes. What good would crying do other than to attract more ridicule and hurt?
Like many young boys, he had been up since the early hours of the day. However, it was not the anticipation of what toys and gifts he was to receive that had pulled Harry from his bed at six o'clock that morning, for Harry had never received a Christmas present in his life. Rather, it was his bad-tempered aunt who had awoken him with strict instructions to start to prepare the family feast for later in the day.
While the rest of his small family had gathered in the front room to exchange gifts and celebrate the day, Harry had begun to prepare the large turkey that would be the centre piece of the Dursleys' Christmas dinner. He had been forced to pause in the middle of his preparations to fix the family's breakfast. Despite the promise of an enormous dinner later, he was instructed to cook a full English breakfast sufficient to feed a small army for them. He was permitted one piece of toast himself before he was told to get back to work.
In between preparing the vegetables for dinner and washing-up the breakfast things, Harry would occasionally pause and listen to the sounds coming from the other room. His Uncle Vernon had switched on the television and it sounded like he was watching a war film. No doubt his Aunt Petunia sat beside him on the sofa, probably daintily picking at the large box of chocolates she had received as a present from Vernon. Harry's cousin Dudley could be heard running in and out of the front room, yelling at the top of his voice as he tried out each of his many Christmas gifts. Harry doubted any of Dudley's new toys would last more than a week knowing how his cousin treated them.
Despite receiving no help whatsoever, Harry managed to get Christmas dinner ready for the stroke of three o'clock. The table was set and groaning with food and Harry felt a small flicker of pride at having prepared such a mouth-watering meal all by himself. In hope, he had set the table for four, but he was to be disappointed. When he had timidly began to take a seat at the table, his uncle had harshly demanded to know what he was doing and knocked him to the floor with the back of his hand. His aunt had harshly ordered him to begin the washing-up, scolding him for getting so many dishes and plates dirty, even if it would have been impossible to cook a meal of that size without using them all.
With his stomach growling with hunger, and the sound of crackers being pulled in the dining room echoing in his ears, he began to fill the sink with hot water. Only the hope that there might be some left-overs he could eat kept him going.
He was interrupted in the middle of his chores by the Dursleys demanding he clear the dinner things away and bring in pudding, which he duly did. Once his family was safely tucking into their Christmas Pudding with custard, Harry picked over the plates and bowls to find what food had been left. He was bitterly disappointed. It seemed like every dish had been emptied in a deliberate ploy to spite him. In the end, Harry's Christmas dinner comprised one squashed roast potato and a small sliver of turkey meat that had been hidden under the bird's breast bone.
Eventually, he was summoned to collect the desert bowls and clear the table. This at least meant he could finally finish the washing-up. Petunia had berated him for making a mess, even though he was in the middle of cleaning-up, and promised him a thrashing if her kitchen wasn't spotless by the time he had finished. Wearily, Harry continued putting away the plates and bowls, and started wiping down all the work surfaces. Knowing his aunt would inspect the kitchen meticulously, he mopped the floor, as well.
In the front room, there was a comedy program on the television and Vernon and Petunia were laughing uproariously at it, no doubt aided by the bottle of sparkling white wine they had opened after dinner. Exhausted by his busy day, Harry gratefully headed to his cupboard to lay down, thankful that the Dursleys had apparently forgotten about him for the moment.
Just as he entered the hallway, a movement caught his eye and he turned just in time to see Dudley lunging at him with a cricket bat in hand. Harry managed to throw up an arm in time to stop the bat smashing him in the side of the head, but his forearm took the full force of the blow. He heard a sickening crack, and he fell to the floor clutching his arm in agony.
He must have screamed when the bat hit him, because a second later a red-faced Vernon charged into the hall.
"What the devil is all this noise?" he demanded. "What are you up to, you little freak?"
"Dad, Harry tried to take my new cricket bat off me!" Dudley lied, glee clearly evident on his face.
"Oh, he did, did he?" Vernon snarled. "Dirty, good-for-nothing, thief! Get in your cupboard, and don't expect to be fed tomorrow. I'll show you how we deal with nasty, little freaks in this house!"
"Please, sir!" Harry begged. "I think my arm is broken."
"What do you expect me to do about it?" Vernon yelled. "You should be more careful, shouldn't you? Get in the cupboard, now!"
Knowing arguing would only bring more punishment, and desperate to protect his injured arm, Harry crawled into the cupboard. He heard the bolt being slid into place on the outside, and the living room door being slammed shut.
He was alone.
Biting his lip against the pain, Harry stared into the darkness. His arm was pure agony and he felt faint with hunger. Somehow, despite his discomfort, he managed to drop off to sleep. His last thought before his eyes closed was that he wished he would never wake up.
Next morning, Harry awoke and blearily looked around. He was startled to see that the door to his cupboard was wide open, but neither his aunt nor uncle was anywhere to be seen. Cautiously, he rolled over and poked his head out, but there was no sign of life. It was only when he had crawled out of the cupboard completely that it dawned on him that his arm wasn't hurting. True, it felt a little numb, but other than that it was fine. Tenderly, he touched his arm where Dudley had hit it with his bat, but nothing felt broken. If there was one thing Harry had become an expert on, it was broken bones.
Carefully, he walked down the hall and peeked into the front room through the open doorway. He was surprised to see Vernon, Petunia and Dudley all sitting rigidly on the couch, staring straight ahead of them. Harry felt the hairs on the back of his neck start to rise. Something strange was going on and he was becoming concerned.
"Come in, my boy, no need to be afraid," a voice said calmly.
Harry jumped in surprise. The voice was rusty and had an odd accent he couldn't place. He didn't recognise the voice at all, and wondered why there was a stranger in the house.
Timidly, he edged into the front room. There, sitting in Vernon's favourite chair, was a man dressed in an impeccable dark blue suit. He appeared quite old, but his brutal features and near-shaved head gave him a fearsome appearance. Harry stared at him with a feeling of dread mounting inside of him.
"I assure you, Harry, there is no reason to fear me. Indeed, I would never have been able to enter this house if I had any intention of hurting you," the man told him.
Harry nodded, although he didn't feel very assured. "Please, sir, who are you and how do you know who I am?" he asked in a shaky voice.
"My name is Gellert Grindelwald. As you might have guessed from my accent, I am from Germany, although I did briefly live in this country when I was younger. As for how I know you, you will be surprised to learn that you are quite a famous young man," he explained.
"Me? Famous? I think you must have the wrong person, Mr Grindelwald," Harry said, his eyes wide with surprise.
"Oh, no, I have exactly the right person," Gellert replied with a reassuring smile. "That scar on your forehead is quite distinctive, after all."
"Oh," Harry said lamely, rather unsure how to respond to this odd man. He glanced warily at his aunt and uncle, who had strangely not spoken a word.
"Don't worry about them, Harry," Grindelwald told him, obviously having seen where he was looking. "I have cast a magical spell on them so they have no free will. Similarly, I cast a spell on you to heal your arm. Tell me, my boy, do your guardians often lock you that tiny cupboard after breaking your bones?"
Harry gawped at the man, not quite sure what to do or say next. This Grindelwald character was clearly insane, wasn't he? Even so, Harry's eyes drifted to where his hated family sat, immobile and silent, and his left hand caressed his right forearm, which showed no signs of ever being hit with Dudley's cricket bat.
"Yes, Harry, magic is very real. I myself am a very powerful wizard, as was your father, while your mother was a talented witch. Do not believe the lies that your dreadful relatives have told you, your parents didn't die in some drunken car-crash, they were killed fighting an evil wizard who also tried to kill you when you were just a baby," Grindelwald explain.
By this point, Harry was becoming extremely alarmed and began to edge backwards out of the room. Grindelwald, seeing this, raised a small piece of wood he was holding and pointed it at Harry. A second later, Harry felt his arms and legs go totally rigid and he was unable to move a muscle. He felt himself slowly topple to the ground. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Grindelwald stand and walk over to him. The man waived his little stick again, and Harry found he could once again move. He stared at the old man in surprise and fright.
"As I said, Harry, you have nothing to fear from me. I did feel, however, that a practical demonstration of magic was in order for you to believe me. Do you accept that magic is real now?" he asked.
Not trusting himself to speak, Harry nodded. Grindelwald just chuckled.
"I think the world has just markedly changed for you, hasn't it? Fear not, young Harry, magic is a wonderful thing and you should be grateful that you have the ability to wield it," Grindelwald smiled.
"What do you mean?" Harry spluttered. "I can't do magic!"
"I strongly suspect that you have already performed acts of magic many times without realising it," the man disagreed. "However, I can assure you that you are indeed magical. I can almost feel the power rolling off you. That power needs to be harnessed and controlled, however, and for that you will require training. That is why I am here, Harry, to offer to train you and turn you into a great wizard."
"But…" Harry stammered, "but… my aunt and uncle will never allow that! They've said loads of times that magic isn't real."
"That was only their petty fear and jealousy speaking. Besides, they have no say in the matter. For you to become my apprentice you will need to leave this place and come and live with me. Your lessons will take up most of your waking hours and you need to be in an environment where you can cast spells and charms freely. In short, I'm offering to take you from this place and give you a proper home where you can learn and flourish. I promise that the place I will take you will have a decent bed for you, and you will get three square meals a day. How does that sound?" Gellert asked warmly.
"It sounds too good to be true," Harry mumbled in confusion.
"I don't blame you for being suspicious, my lad," Gellert nodded in approval. "You do not know me and all of this must have come as an incredible shock. I assure you, however, that I can teach you many, many wondrous things and you will gain knowledge and power like you never dreamed of! I will teach you how to read the minds of others and how to alter the very fabric of the world around you. You will learn how to magically transport yourself hundreds of miles in just the blink of an eye, or, if it's your preference, to fly through the sky. You will be taught how to take the form of an animal and how to make yourself invisible. These are just a few of the marvels I will show you."
Amongst all the incredible abilities that Mr Grindelwald described, one leapt out at immediately. Wide-eyed, Harry looked at the old man and gasped, "Fly? You'll teach me how to fly?"
Gellert smiled at the boy. "Indeed, Harry. Witches and wizards commonly fly on brooms, although other objects can be enchanted to make them fly, also. Does the idea appeal to you?"
Harry just nodded, memories of the dreams he'd had about flying motorcycles filling his mind.
"I understand your father was very good on a broom. Although I never met your parents, I have learnt a lot about them in the past few weeks and I will be happy to tell you all that I know. This is not something your aunt or uncle have ever done for you, am I correct?" Gellert prompted.
"No, they told me my mum and dad died in a car crash, and that they were drunken layabouts, but that's about it," Harry admitted, a little bitterly.
"All lies," Gellert confirmed. "You have an impressive magical heritage, Harry, and it will be my honour to educate you. Will you come with me?"
Harry looked over at his immobile guardians. This all seemed too fantastic to be true, and he half expected the Dursleys to suddenly burst out laughing at him. Besides, he had no idea who this scary old man was, and he might be trying to harm him for some reason. On the other hand, what had Harry left to lose? He remembered the wish he'd made the previous night, and surely anything was better than this? Besides, just on the off chance this might actually all be true, imagine what a joy it would be to fly on a broom. He made up his mind.
"Yes, sir, I will," Harry said decisively. Did he really have a choice?
"Excellent. We'll leave immediately, so go and gather anything you wish to take with you. You will never be returning to this house, so don't leave behind anything you may need later. Off you go," Gellert instructed him and Harry scampered off to gather his meagre belongings.
As soon as Harry left the room, Gellert went into the kitchen. After a brief examination of a pipe that led directly to the back of the cooker, he waved his wand and ripped it in two. A hissing sound immediately came from the ruptured gas line. With a smile, Gellert walked back into the front room and addressed Petunia Dursley.
"Do you keep candles in this house?" Gellert asked gruffly.
"Yes," the woman replied unemotionally.
"Good. In fifteen minutes you will go and retrieve all the candles you own and take them into the kitchen. You will then start lighting them until they are all lit. Do you understand?" Gellert instructed her.
"Yes," Petunia confirmed.
Nodding absently, Gellert turned and walked out the room. He found Harry crawling out of the small cupboard that he had been locked in, clutching what appeared to be a small bundle of rags.
"I'm ready, Mr Grindelwald," the boy declared.
"Is that all you have to take with you?" Gellert asked sadly.
The boy just nodded.
"Very well. Clearly, getting you some new clothes will be the first priority. But never mind about that just yet. We will shortly be travelling to a place called Godric's Hollow, to the house of my great-aunt who has agreed to look after you. Aunt Bathilda is a kindly old woman who has been very much looking forward to meeting you, Harry. Come, let us go so you can see your new home," Gellert said, offering his hand to the young boy.
Nervously, Harry took the man's hand. "Should I say goodbye to the Dursleys?" he asked uncertainly.
"No, I don't think that's necessary, my boy," Gellert assured him and led him out of the house.
They were long gone before a fireball ripped the house apart, instantly incinerating the three occupants.