Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of the characters in the Harry Potter books or movies.
Author's Notes: This story is set in an Alternate Universe. A number of canon events didn't or won't happen. A number of characters will act differently as well.
I'd like to thank Pahan and InquisitorCOC for beta-reading.
Chapter 1: Breakout
Nurmengard, Magical Prussia, July 12th, 1997
Contrary to what others might have thought, he had long ago accepted his fate. For his unforgivable sins, he deserved to die in prison, despised by everyone. The things he had done, in his rage, in his hubris… It had taken him a long time to accept that he had been wrong, and even longer to come to terms with his guilt, but he had done it. Too late, far too late, but he had managed. He hadn't been able to do much but think. Think and remember.
And, all things considered, things could have been worse. His cell was not large, and certainly not comfortable - he had designed the prison for his own enemies, after all - but it was tolerable. Not that he deserved it, but his friend had been more merciful than he had deserved.
But his last, best friend was now dead. Murdered. The guards had told him. Not to taunt him, no - that sort of thing had stopped decades ago. Simply to tell him, so he wouldn't expect a visit. And, maybe, so he'd finally let himself die, and this shameful chapter of history could be closed.
Yet he wouldn't. Couldn't. With his friend gone, too many were left defenseless. Helpless. At the mercy of an enemy who might be worse than he had ever been. There was no one to replace his friend, no one to continue the fight, no one to stand for the cause they once had shared.
No one but him.
He knew the prison, better than anyone. He knew its weaknesses and its guards. He had been working on a way to escape, right after he had been imprisoned. And he had continued to work on it, even after he had accepted his fate - both because there was not much else to do than plan and think, and because to stay in prison while he might escape proved, to himself, that he had changed. Had become the man he should have been, and stayed, long ago.
The man who might yet save his friend's country, and maybe atone a tiny bit for his own sins. He wouldn't be alone, he knew that. There were some of his old allies left. They hadn't found everyone. And others still remembered him fondly. Old, like him, but still dangerous. They might be misguided, had been misled, just as he had lost his way, but they would still follow him, if he called them. When he called them.
He stood up from where he had been sitting on his cot and faced the door to his cell. He had no wand, but that was no bar to magic. Not for someone who had studied magic as he had. And had had decades to hone his skill.
For a moment, he hesitated. He could still stop. Wait until he died in this cell and was reunited with his friend.
But no. He shook his head. How could he face him, knowing he could have saved his friends, but had chosen not to? Had chosen to do nothing?
It was time to do what was right, not what was easy.
When he had constructed the prison, decades ago, he had planned it out meticulously. Every cell was covered with spells that prohibited magical travel of all sorts, strengthened the walls and door to the point that a giant wouldn't be able to scratch them, rendered extension charms inert and repelled anyone not keyed with blood into the main rune of the prison - which was not even near the cells - from stepping over the threshold no matter their form.
And then he had added redundancies. Seven such layers covered each cell, connected with detection charms. As soon as even one protection was dispelled, the guards would be informed. No one, not even Albus, would be able to deal with the rest of the spells in the time until their arrival. And the guards had multiple ways to stop any escape attempt cold in the cell.
However, even the best defence wasn't perfect. Even a tightly-woven layer of spells could be unravelled if you knew how. And after decades of studying the spells - the only magic he could study in his cell, which provided a very effective focus - he knew every single flaw of the defences. And how to exploit them. How to fool the Detection Charms. How to use the Law of Similarity to turn the redundancies into weaknesses by disabling all spells that protected the door at once. And how to reverse the seal that connected the threshold to the main rune.
It took a dozen spells to get through the door. It took just half that number to subdue the guards. And, after he had picked up their wands, just one spell to blow open the gates and leave the prison.
After decades, Gellert Grindelwald was free again. And this time, he would make Albus proud!
No 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, Britain, July 15th, 1997
Grindelwald Escapes Prison! Dark Lord At Large! Who Can Stop Him?
Harry Potter threw the Daily Prophet to the floor, startling Hedwig, who barked and glared at him balefully for waking her up. "Sorry," he said, with a sigh, "it's not your fault. It's just…" He sat down on his bed and closed his eyes. Dumbledore was dead. Murdered by Snape and Draco Malfoy. Voldemort would be making his move soon. And now, as if things weren't bad enough, Dumbledore's old enemy, Grindelwald, had escaped from Prison!
"Probably just waited until Dumbledore died so no one could stop him," Harry muttered. He picked up the newspaper again and continued reading the article. It wasn't as if he had anything better to do since he had to stay in Privet Drive to recharge the blood wards. The protection on the house would fall on his birthday, according to Dumbledore, but every hour he spent inside them would strengthen his personal protection, which would outlast the wards.
And with Voldemort out for his blood and Dumbledore dead, Harry needed all the help he could get.
In response to this shocking news, the Duc d'Orléans has ordered the Ducal Guard to mobilise, to protect Magical France from foreign aggression - no matter its origin, as his spokeswitch told our correspondent. When asked whether or not the Duc suspected that Grindelwald had had help from elements loyal to him in Magical Prussia, she had the following to say:
"While we are not accusing anyone at this time, it is no secret that Magical Prussia is rife with wizards and witches who have never stopped supporting Grindelwald - including influential members of Chancellor Steiner's government."
Chancellor Steiner responded with the following statement:
"The government of Magical Prussia had no part in Grindelwald's escape. The muggleborn members of my cabinet have my full trust. Magical Prussia's Feldjäger are doing what they can to arrest Grindelwald as we speak, but should any country try to use this as a pretext for invasion, we will defend our country with all our might."
The International Confederation of Wizards declined to comment, citing the need to gather more information first. Unofficially, though, usually well-informed sources claim that the ICW is more concerned with choosing a successor for the late Albus Dumbledore than with dealing with the wizard who brought Magical Europe to its knees in the past.
Harry closed his eyes. This felt like Fudge all over again. The damage that idiot had done because he had been more concerned with his personal power and status than with the threat of a Dark Lord! Harry clenched his teeth. Why couldn't those idiots have a little common sense? Instead of accusing each other, France and Prussia should be working together to stop Grindelwald before he started another war!
He shook his head and dropped the newspaper on his desk. For all the serious implications of the escape, Harry had other problems to worry about. Namely, how he would escape Privet Drive before the wards fell and the Death Eaters stormed the place. The stupid Ministry had placed wards over the entire street that prevented all forms of magical travel - supposedly to keep him safe. He could try to sneak out of the house under his Cloak of Invisibility, of course, but if Voldemort was nearby and could sense him through his scar… Apparently, Dumbledore had had a plan, or so Remus had told him during the man's latest shift as his guard, but no one in the Order had told him anything more than that.
He clenched his teeth again and lay down on his bed. At least Ron and Hermione would visit soon. And the Order wasn't aware of their plans.
Near Marienburg, Poland, July 15th, 1997
The house hadn't changed at all in the decades since Gellert Grindelwald had last visited. The same thatched roof, sturdy brick walls, and red shutters. The same wards, even - but then, Hans had never been a good Curse-Breaker. His talents lay elsewhere. But the important thing was that the house was inhabited.
Gellert smiled and flicked his borrowed wand, sending a weak incendiary curse at the house. The wards flared as the curse harmlessly dissipated at the wardline. A few seconds later, the door was pushed open, and a robed man appeared, leading with his wand. "Verdammte Scheisse! Who dares…" His eyes widened.
Gellert waved at him. There was his most faithful follower and closest friend. Well, among the ones still alive, anyway. A few decades older, slightly thicker around the middle, but still sharp and quick, from what he could see. "Hans."
Hans Balzer gaped, his lips moving without a sound escaping his mouth for a few seconds. "M-Meister Grindelwald!"
"In the flesh," Gellert said. "May I come in?"
"Of course!" Hans flicked his wand, and the wards briefly flared again.
Gellert stepped forward, feeling the tickling sensation as he passed through the wardline.
Hans snapped his heels together and raised his wand in salute. "Meister!"
Gellert raised his hand. "It's good to see you. But aren't you concerned that I might be an impostor?"
Hans shook his head. "I know you too well, Meister! And who else but you would know about my home? You're the first visitor since… you know."
Gellert inclined his head. "Indeed. But you seem surprised to see me. I would have thought news of my escape would have spread, at least in Prussia." It had been decades, but he couldn't have been forgotten already, could he? If his old followers didn't know about his return, gathering them would be more difficult than he had anticipated.
"Forgive me, Meister, but I don't follow the news much… the way those vultures defamed you…" He shook his head. "I buy a Kurier when I visit a Biergarten, but I don't do that very often. But… how did you escape?"
Gellert smiled. "I built the prison - no one knows it better. But the real question you need to ask is: Why did I escape? And why did I come to you?"
Hans blinked, then gasped. "You're raising your banner again! We'll finish what we started so many decades ago! We'll conquer Magical Europe!" His scarred face twisted into a beaming smile as he swished his wand and summoned a chest. "I still have my old robes, of course! I would never part with them!" he said as he pulled out the leather coat of an officer in the Storm Wizards. "Finally, after so long, revenge will be ours!"
Gellert coughed. "Well… in a manner of speaking. Let me explain..."
Chorin, Kreis Barnim, Brandenburg, Germany, July 16th, 1997
Unlike Hans's home, Katrina's home certainly had changed, Gellert Grindelwald thought as he stared at the large house that had replaced the farm where the witch had been born. It looked very modern - in his opinion; not that he was aware of what was currently considered modern architecture. A few decades in prison will do that to a man.
But no matter, he wasn't there to look at buildings, but to recruit Katrina Kebel. While Hans had formed and trained his armies, Katrina had led them. After the deaths of Ulrich Meier, Rudolf Beckmann, and Gabriella Galinski, anyway. But she had done well all the same.
He glanced to his side. Hans had his wand out and was far too tense. "Relax, Hans. We're not about to fight."
"I'm your bodyguard, Meister." Hans straightened, as he usually did when he protested an order without actually saying so.
"And we're visiting a friend. If I cannot trust Katrina, then our plan is doomed from the start." He nodded at Hans and strode forward. He didn't send a spell against the wards on the house - Katrina tended to prepare her positions thoroughly, and he doubted that her home was an exception. Instead, he cast an Amplifying Charm. "Katrina!" His voice rang over the courtyard.
When a marker appeared floating on the field to his left, he turned towards it. Hans would guard his back. "Katrina?"
The air shimmered, and his old friend appeared. She was wearing her old coat - and she hadn't gained some weight; if anything, she had grown leaner, even if her hair was more silver than blonde. And she was staring at him with narrowed eyes, her wand aimed straight at his head. She was properly suspicious, as he had expected.
"It's me," he said. "You've probably heard of my escape. And you certainly know Hans." It wouldn't be out of the question that some found a hair or two of him in his old cell. But Hans? That was very unlikely.
"What did you tell me when you promoted me to lead your army?" she asked.
He winced. "Officially, or unofficially?"
She started to grin, but her wand didn't move. "The truth, of course."
He sighed. "I said 'Gottverdammte Scheisse! Katrina, Du bist dran!'" The official war diary entry, of course, wasn't quite as profane and called it 'Kebel taking over'.
She beamed at him and saluted. "Meister Grindelwald! Katrina Kebel, reporting for duty!"
He returned her salute with a smile. "I'm happy to see you in good health. As you can imagine, I haven't broken out of Nurmengard just to do some sightseeing - I have a plan."
Her eyes lit up. "I knew it as soon as I heard of your escape, Meister!"
He nodded. "But we need a few more wands." Not that many, he thought - from what Albus had told him during his last visit, those 'Death Eaters' weren't exactly the most skilled fighters. Ambushing a few children with double their number, yet failing to capture any of them? Pathetic!
Katrina's smile widened. "I have anticipated your need, Meister!" She took a deep breath, straining her coat in that familiar way, and Gellert suppressed a wince, suspecting what would be coming. "Kampfgruppe Kebel! Auf einem Glied, Sammlung!" she screamed, louder than many Amplifying Charms.
And a dozen, no, two dozen wizards and witches wearing the leather coats of his Storm Wizards poured out of the house, snapping to attention in a line in front of Katrina. The witch turned towards him. "Kampfgruppe Kebel, reporting for duty!"
"Very good, Katrina," he replied, eyeing the group. They were younger than he had expected - some barely out of school. Others in their thirties and forties. "You've been recruiting."
"Yes," she said. "The government pretends otherwise, but your support among the Prussians never faded! This is but one of our cells! We've got people in the government, even, poised to strike at your command! Say the word, and Prussia is yours!"
"And then France will pay!" Hans said, before coughing. "I'm sorry, Meister. Reflex."
Gellert forced himself to keep smiling. Katrina meant well. But it was quite clear to him that he had escaped just in time to prevent her from repeating his mistake. But he couldn't tell her that, not after such a display of loyalty. "That's very impressive, Katrina, but we have a more important mission to accomplish first."
"Meister?" She looked slightly confused.
"You've heard of the events in England, I assume. That 'Dark Lord' threatening to murder all muggleborns?"
She gasped. "Of course! I understand - we need to stop that maniac!"
He smiled. She got it. She, too, had changed in the last few decades. She knew that saving lives took priority over politics - politics in which he had no wish to get involved anyway any more.
Katrina nodded with an eager expression. "Between your old foe's death and this Dark Lord, Britain is weak - ripe for the taking! And if we squash those blood purists, not only will we have another country as a base, but muggleborns all over Europe will flock to your banner! Oh, it's a plan worthy of you, Meister!"
Gellert's smile froze as two dozen wizards and witches cheered.
Well, he could always clear this little misunderstanding up once they were in Britain. Prussia's government should be happy, too, if he took the most militant muggleborns out of the country for a while. That would keep them out of trouble at the least.
No 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, Britain, July 18th, 1997
"Your friends have arrived."
"Thank you, Aunt Petunia." Harry Potter didn't bother looking at his aunt as he stepped past her into the hallway. The Dursleys didn't like him, and he didn't like them, but they had settled for some sort of mutual tolerance. Of sorts. Knowing that their survival depended on the Order protecting and transporting them to a safe house was probably their main motivation, but Harry didn't really care. He'd leave this house forever in less than two weeks, and good riddance!
Hermione hugged him, hard, and Ron slapped him on the shoulder.
"Let's go to my room," he told them. "How did you arrive?"
"Took the muggle bus and walked the rest of the way disillusioned," Hermione said.
"I still think you should risk it and leave that way," Ron said, as soon as the door closed. "Voldemort can't be waiting around here all day." He and Hermione sat down on the bed, leaving the chair at his desk for Harry.
Harry shrugged. "I would take the chance, but Dumbledore had a plan, or so I've been told."
Hermione sniffed. "And he hasn't even told you?"
He shook his head. "He was barely able to stand at the end; he probably had too much else to do."
"Well, it better be a good plan," she said. "The longer we wait, the more difficult it'll be - the Death Eaters will be able to concentrate their forces as our window of opportunity shrinks."
Harry suppressed a huff. That was a rather clinical way to talk about a threat to his life - but she didn't mean it like that, he knew. "I'll always have my plan B," he said.
He grinned. "Grab my Cloak, grab my Firebolt, and run for it." He had outflown a dragon, once.
"Voldemort will be prepared for that," Hermione said. "He knows what you did in the Tournament."
"I know. It's still a decent alternative." At least he wouldn't die cowering in the house.
She nodded and glanced at Ron, who cleared his throat, but didn't say anything. Harry frowned but didn't call him out on it. They had more important things to worry about.
He cleared his throat. "So, the Horcruxes…"
"Yes." Hermione straightened. "We know he planned to make six Horcruxes. We have to assume that he achieved that. Two of them, the diary and the ring, were destroyed. One was stolen by a wizard named 'R.A.B.' - a Death Eater, as far as we know."
"Good luck tracking them down," Ron said. "Many of them were never known."
She huffed. "We'll have to keep a positive outlook. We'll research that later. We know Voldemort was obsessed with the relics of the founders - Slytherin's Locket, Hufflepuff's Cup, something from Ravenclaw."
"And his snake," Harry said. He hadn't spent so many weekends trying to see through Voldemort's eyes and then pouring his memories into Dumbledore's Pensieve for analysis for nothing. "Dumbledore identified it as a Horcrux." After checking with Hagrid if the half-giant had done some cross-breeding experiments with snakes.
"I was getting to that," Hermione said. "The snake isn't much of a problem since it rarely seems to leave Voldemort's side. So, if we have taken care of the other Horcruxes, we can destroy the snake when we make our attack on Voldemort."
His friend was rather blasé about attacking the worst Dark Lord Britain had ever seen, Harry thought. "So, what do we know about the relics' locations?" he asked.
Hermione winced. "Not very much. But," she said, perking up, "I've been preparing for our trip. I secured a wizarding tent and enough supplies to last a decade! Food, water, books! We'll be able to keep up with our studies for our N.E.W.T.s while we're on our hunt!"
Harry exchanged a glance with Ron. Maybe returning to Hogwarts wasn't such a bad idea?
Hogwarts, July 23rd, 1997
Gellert Grindelwald raised his hand, cutting off his friend. "I know, Hans. But this is something I have to do alone."
"But the defences… this is Hogwarts. The heart of Wizarding Britain. There will be guards - many guards."
"I know," he repeated himself, looking ahead, at the white marble mausoleum. "But this is a personal matter." He certainly couldn't properly pay Albus's grave his respects by having half a dozen Storm Wizards secure the site. That simply wasn't done. "Trust me, I know what I am doing."
Hans nodded, if a little reluctantly, then turned to the Storm Wizards with them. "Alright, you lot! Fan out and secure this area - this is our rally spot. And be ready to attack as soon as I give the command!" He turned around again. "We'll be at your side the very moment the slightest threat appears, Meister!"
"Thank you, Hans." That was probably the best he could expect, Gellert knew. He still sighed as he left the forest they had set up in.
A few minutes later, he was standing inside the grave. There, in that marble sarcophagus, rested Albus Dumbledore. His greatest rival. His only love. His worst enemy as well. But above all, his best friend.
He folded his hands as he stood there. "Albus. I wish we wouldn't have to meet like this. I wish you were still alive, and I still in my cell. But what did you always say? If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. We have to make the best out of the cards we are dealt. Or something like that. I've come to continue your work, Albus. Fight your enemies, protect your friends - and the innocents. Just as you wanted, I know. I love you." He wiped the tears from his eyes, remembering the good times with Albus. Their plans, their passion. Until that fateful… no, he didn't want to remember that duel. "I'll make you proud, I promise!"
Taking a deep, shuddering breath, he turned to leave, then stopped. Albus had defeated him and taken the Elder Wand from him. But had he lost it? It would make sense - who wouldn't take the wand? On the other hand, as far as he knew, Albus had been assassinated - struck down by a traitor in a cowardly attack. But the murderer had been forced to flee the site of the crime right after the deed. Maybe…
He cleared his throat and cast a Supersensory Charm, then pointed his wand at the sarcophagus. "Accio Elder Wand!"
He heard the sound of something hitting the lid of the Sarcophagus - on the inside - and his eyes widened. The Elder Wand had been buried with Albus! It wasn't lost to the enemy, but here, waiting for him to recover it!
He pointed his wand at the Sarcophagus. Albus would understand - hell, Albus had probably anticipated this! He had known Gellert better than Gellert himself, after all, as their duel had proven!
And Albus certainly would want the Elder Wand to be used for good!
Diagon Alley, London, July 24th, 1997
Gellert Grindelwald shook his head as he read this 'Daily Prophet'. He had had his doubts when Albus had told him about this newspaper, and its questionable relationship with the truth - his friend had had a tendency to prefer an amusing anecdote to a true story - but his reading of today's issue left no doubt. This newspaper was full of fantasies and lies.
He never called himself a 'Dark Lord'! And he certainly didn't plan to ally himself with this 'Voldemort'! Quite the contrary - he had always championed the muggleborn cause! All wizards were equal, after all, especially when compared to the poor muggles. But as Albus had taught him, the muggles were doing fine without magical oversight. He didn't quite get why they were still waging war if they were doing fine, but Albus had assured him that the alternative was worse, so it was OK.
And then these stories about Prussia and France being on the brink of war! He had taken his followers - the most eager, at least - with him to England, and he certainly hadn't taken over Magical Prussia. If they truly feared him, then those two countries would ally with each other! Really, just because a few students - they certainly weren't Storm Wizards! - were raising his banner as a lark in the Alte Strasse in Berlin! Some journalists would invent anything to sell their articles!
He dropped the newspaper on the table and took another sip of his tea, savouring the taste. He hadn't had decent tea in decades. Setting the cup down, he looked around. No sign of his quarry. But the two very conspicuously-inconspicuous wizards in the corner… Hans meant well, but just because Gellert had been defeated by the greatest wizard of his time in one duel didn't mean that he needed an escort for every little mission! Especially since he had a perfect disguise thanks to a fake beard and dyed hair!
Just as he was debating whether or not he should walk over to them and send them off, the witch he had been waiting for entered the café: Dolores Umbridge, a well-connected but not particularly skilled Ministry employee, according to Gellert's information. Which came directly from Albus, and therefore was of the utmost accuracy. Thanks to Albus's stories about the time that witch had taken over Hogwarts, Gellert knew everything he needed to know about Umbridge. Not that he needed to know anything other than that she knew where Harry Potter lived, and that no one would miss her. Albus had said so himself, during his last visit, when he had told Gellert how the witch had left Hogwarts.
He grinned as he stood. He loved it when missions were simple and righteous!
No 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, Britain, July 25th, 1997
Death Eater attack in Diagon Alley! Dolores Umbridge hospitalised!
Couldn't happen to a more deserving witch, Harry Potter thought as he read the article in today's Daily Prophet. "Found obliviated in a side alley… traces of the Imperius Curse… Could barely remember her name, and didn't know which year it was..."
He shook his head. That didn't sound like a Death Eater attack; those were usually either more brutal or less obvious. And why would a Death Eater attack Umbridge? Unless they thought that she was showing them up with her bigotry.
Well, if that witch spent the rest of her life in St Mungo's Janus Thickey Ward, he'd be happy. She certainly deserved it.
The rest of the articles weren't as uplifting, though. More Death Eater attacks, Ministry propaganda, and the international news… Apparently, Grindelwald was launching a coup in Magical Prussia. People rioting in the Alte Strasse, Berlin's magical quarter. And the ICW was 'concerned'.
He dropped the newspaper, refilled Hedwig's feeding bowl with a few more owl treats, and then went downstairs to the kitchen to check if the Dursleys had left him anything in the fridge when they left for their safe house.
He was surprised that the fridge was actually half-full - Aunt Petunia probably hadn't been able to use the remaining food to make sandwiches for Uncle Vernon and Dudley before the family had left to go into hiding. But Harry wouldn't starve until the end of the month. At which point he would either be in The Burrow or dead.
He was about to open one of the yoghurts meant for Dudley's diet when he heard the doorbell. Narrowing his eyes, he drew his wand - he wasn't expecting anyone. He stepped into the living room and peered through the gap between the curtains. An old man was standing in front of the door, frowning at the bell before ringing it again. He was wearing a black leather coat - quite unusual for the weather - and had short white hair as well as a well-groomed short beard.
Harry hesitated. The wards were still up, so this couldn't be a Death Eater. But he wasn't from the neighbourhood. And he didn't look like an acquaintance of his relatives. On the other hand, the Order guard hadn't intervened.
"Mr Potter? Are you at home?"
So, the man was here for him. Harry took a deep breath and walked the few steps to the door, keeping his wand at his side, pointed at the floor. If the man tried anything, he'd get a faceful of curses.
He opened the door with his left hand, just a gap. "Yes?"
The old man beamed at him. "You are here! Great! I was afraid I had missed you." He suddenly frowned. "I mean, you are Mr Potter, right? Harry Potter?"
"Perfect! I'm Grindelwald. Gellert Grindelwald. I've come here for you."
What? Grindelwald? Here? Harry froze for a moment.
"Albus told me so much about you!"
What? Harry froze again.
"Well, he told me more about you than he told me about his other students. To be frank, he mostly told me about your troubles with Voldemort. But that's why I'm here! Since he'll come after you, that'll be the best opportunity to kill him!"
"You're here to kill Voldemort?" Harry blinked and resisted the urge to check if his ears were working. Maybe Grindelwald considered Voldemort his rival?
"Well, I'm here to avenge Albus and save Britain from Voldemort. Killing this 'Dark Lord' and all of his followers and supporters seems to be the obvious course of action." Grindelwald leaned forward. "By the way, may I come in? My men get a little nervous when I'm out in the open for too long."
"Old friends. And a few new friends. Veteran Storm Wizards, mostly. Did you know that there was a wizard spying on you? We've captured him."
"A spy?" Had they captured a Death Eater? Harry blinked. "Ah… the spy wouldn't be a tall black wizard, by chance?"
"Why yes. Do you know him? Have you fought him before? Was he involved in Albus's murder, by chance?" The last question sounded more eager than Hermione talking about exploring the Black library.
They had stunned Kingsley Shacklebolt. Harry cleared his throat. "I think you took out my bodyguard. One of Dumbledore's friends."
"Oh." Grindelwald grimaced. "That's a little embarrassing!"
Potter was a nice kid. Polite, friendly, calm - although he did make a bit of a fuss about that completely understandable mistake Gellert Grindelwald and his men had made. A grown wizard, hiding in the bushes outside Potter's house, instead of staying inside? Who wouldn't have thought that he was a spy?
Potter's house was nice, too - for a muggle home. Luxurious, even - water closet, central heating, television, electrical stove and ice box - of course, the Boy-Who-Lived would be of the upper class.
"He's not hurt, just stunned," Hans said, pointing his wand at the wizard on the couch. "Nothing to it."
Potter seemed to disagree. "But you attacked him. That'll be trouble. It's going to be hard enough to explain your presence without having to explain that you stunned an Order member."
Ah! Gellert nodded. "That is true." Albus's followers would be a little jumpy, after losing their leader. And wounded pride made for difficult allies. "But it's easily solved."
Potter looked at him. "How so?"
Gellert smiled. "Like this." He pointed his wand at the stunned wizard. "Obliviate!"
"No!" Potter yelled.
"What?" Gellert frowned. "He won't remember getting stunned. Problem solved!"
"But he'll wonder how he ended up on my couch! Or unconscious in the bushes, if you plan to dump him outside!" The kid was shaking his head and working himself into a frenzy.
Gellert smiled at him. That usually calmed down people. Unless they were prisoners - then they usually started to shake for some reason. Like that Umbridge witch. "That's what the False-Memory Charm is for. He'll remember letting us enter since we're no danger to you or him." He beamed at Potter, but the kid was still gaping at him.
"Meister, perhaps we should have him remember allying with us? Wouldn't that greatly facilitate our mission?" Hans asked.
"What a wonderful suggestion!" Gellert smiled widely.
"No, you can't do that!" Potter exclaimed. "They'll notice. And… Kingsley is not the leader of the Order. He couldn't make that decision anyway!"
"Oh. So, we'll settle for him letting us enter since we don't pose a threat."
It took a few more casts than Gellert had expected, and the guard - Shacklebolt - looked a little confused at the end, but after half a dozen tries he had stopped trying to curse them on sight. He also didn't remember them any more, but that couldn't be helped. Human brains, even wizard brains, didn't handle so many Memory Charms that well, and Gellert was still adjusting to using the Elder Wand again, after decades, so he tended to overpower his spells. That wouldn't matter with most combat spells, but for memory modification... Fortunately, he had noticed that when obliviating Umbridge, and not when doing this to someone who had a use for their brain.
Gellert still hoped that they didn't have to do this with all of the Order members. That would be tedious.
No 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, Britain, July 26th, 1997
When he heard the doorbell ring, Harry Potter closed his eyes. This was it. If he blew this, spells and curses would fly. And a number of Order members, not to mention his two best friends, would probably lose a few brain cells from an overdose of memory charms.
He checked the door before opening. There was a crowd outside. Ron, Hermione, the twins, Fleur, Bill, Tonks, Remus, Mr Weasley, Mad-Eye, Hagrid and Fletcher. And Shacklebolt, who still looked a little confused. He took a deep breath and opened the door.
"Harry!" Hermione hugged him again as the others greeted him.
Harry cleared his throat. "Before you enter, there's something important I need to tell you. A few important things."
"Can't we do that inside?" Bill asked.
"There's someone inside," Mad-Eye growled. "Wizard. Old one."
"Yes, I have a visitor. He's an old friend of Dumbledore, and he has come to help me, us, fight Voldemort," Harry said.
"'An old friend of Dumbledore's?' Now that Albus can't confirm it? A likely story!" Moody sneered. Harry saw that the others were drawing their wands.
"Are you being threatened?" Hermione whispered.
"Is he under the Imperius Curse?" Fleur asked.
"Harry is immune to the Imperius Curse!" Ron retorted.
"I'm OK, I'm not under any spell," Harry was quick to say. "And he is an old friend of Dumbledore. A foreigner." He held his hands up. "Look, all I'm asking is that you don't curse him, but let him talk. The wards didn't stop him, so he's not working for Voldemort."
His friends exchanged glances. Looks. Frowns. They took entirely too long for Harry's taste, but they ended up agreeing.
"Alright, come in. He's in the living room."
He led them inside, hoping for the best. "Everyone, this is Gellert Grindelwald."
"Bloody Hell!" "Get away from him, Harry!" "Merlin's Arse!" "Merlin's Beard!" "Putain!" "Fleur!" "Get down, Harry!" "No!" "Children, get behind me!" "Don't move!" "Harry?" "Buggering hell!" "Huh?"
Harry winced, both from the ringing in his ears - Hermione had very strong lungs - and the fact that he found eleven wands pointed not quite at him, but close enough so that he was very likely to get hit should they start casting. But he was certain that a fight would break out if he moved.
"Ladies and gentlemen, don't worry," he heard Grindelwald speak up behind him in a very chipper tone for someone staring down eleven wands. No, twelve wands; Shacklebolt had finally drawn his as well, though to Harry's considerable concern, the Auror seemed slightly confused whether he should be aiming it at Harry or Grindelwald.
All that didn't seem to faze Grindelwald. "I'm here to help!" he went on, as if he were telling them that they had won the lottery. "Trust me, if I wished you harm, my Storm Wizards would have ambushed you outside!"
That caused another commotion that nearly deafened Harry. But at least no spells were flying, and Hermione had stopped trying to tear his arm out of its socket in her attempts to drag him to the questionable safety of the hallway.
Gellert Grindelwald wondered - privately, of course - how Albus had restrained from using the Torture Curse on his followers if this was typical for their missions. It wasn't as if this was a difficult decision - he was here to help them, and help them he would. If he had been here to hurt them, he would have done so already. He had double their number in Storm Wizards waiting nearby, after all!
At least that had convinced the scarred Auror, but the rest… They had lost an hour just discussing and debating what should have been an obvious, easy decision! At least that was over with, and they could now proceed with Albus's plan. Or they would, as soon as this very shady wizard finally got around to tell them about the plan, instead of assuring them that it was Albus's plan.
"So, we need some hair from Potter, for the Polyjuice Potion. Albus had it all planned out."
"Clever!" Gellert nodded, interrupting the wizard. It was a bit rude, but the man's voice grated on his nerves, and he had understood the plan already. "We use a double of Harry Potter as a decoy, and then we ambush and massacre the Death Eaters when they attack the double!"
It was a fine plan indeed - he was glad to see that Albus hadn't lost his touch. The assembled members of Albus's Order were staring at him, but they had done that the whole evening, so he was used to it. "But where is the prisoner we will imperius and use as a decoy?" Had they brought a portable dungeon and he had missed it? Did muggle houses have dungeons these days?
"We don't have a prisoner," the scarred Auror said.
Gellert blinked. "You don't take prisoners?" Albus had certainly grown more radical in his old age, he thought, but then, if the Death Eaters were all magically protected from interrogation, it would make no sense to take them prisoners only to kill them afterwards without having anything to show for all the effort.
"No. We currently do not have a prisoner," the other Auror said. He sounded quite defensively - maybe he had had an interrogation go wrong? Such things happened.
"I see." Gellert nodded. "Do we have time to procure one? It doesn't have to be a Death Eater, any other criminal will do." If the decoy survived, they could pardon them for their crimes. That had worked very well for Gellert, in his day.
Everyone turned towards the wizard who had relayed Albus's plan.
Gellert smiled. "A volunteer? Excellent!" Now he understood why Albus had chosen such an annoying man as his messenger. His old love always had had a knack for hitting two targets with a single curse. A criminal risking his life for the Greater Good in an attempt to find redemption for his crimes was something Albus would have loved!
"Now wait a minute, governor…"
Sometimes, a volunteer's nerves had to be steadied, though. Gellert's wand flicked, and the man - Fletcher or something - stopped talking. It was for the best, really - the man would be remembered as a hero, and Gellert wouldn't be tempted to do something about his annoying voice and disgusting smell any more.
It was weird, seeing someone look like himself. Harry Potter couldn't help staring at Fletcher. Did he really look like that? Well, without the slight drooling.
"You're now an honorary twin, Harry," George - or Fred - said, clapping him on the shoulder.
"Temporarily, though," his brother added.
"Cut the chatter!" Mad-Eye's voice cut Harry's protest off. "Everyone knows the plan? We fly with Fletcher until the Death Eaters attack. Then we split up, and Fletcher leads them into the ambush Grindelwald's men have prepared while we disperse and meet back at The Burrow. Apparate as soon as you have left the area!"
Leaving the fighting to Grindelwald and his followers seemed unfair to Harry - they were here to help him, after all - but Mad-Eye had said that since the Order and the Storm Wizards weren't trained to fight at each other's side, they'd end up killing each other by mistake - especially at night. That made sense - although Harry couldn't help thinking that Mady-Eye didn't want to get such training done.
It didn't matter, though - Grindelwald had agreed to the plan.
"Everyone, mount up!" Mad-Eye commanded. "Potter, stick with me!"
Harry, wearing unfamiliar robes with a hood, straddled his Firebolt - decoy or not, Fletcher wouldn't get his greedy fingers on that broom! - and looked at Mad-Eye.
Harry kicked off and rose in the air. He didn't spare a glance back at what others would call his childhood home; he was heartily sick of it. Instead, he focused on Mad-Eye, easily catching up to the old Auror and flying at his side. Like a wingman.
They had barely left the garden behind the house when Harry's scar started to hurt - Voldemort was near! "He's here!" he yelled. "He's coming!" He turned to fly away when he suddenly realised a flaw in the plan.
Voldemort wouldn't chase the decoy. The Dark Lord could sense him!
Cursing his own stupidity, Harry threw his hood back and gripped his broom's shaft with both hands. The ambush was waiting at the end of the street. Five hundred yards. He could do it.
Then he pushed his broom and dived towards the street, easily overtaking Fletcher, as the Order and his friends split.
"Potter!" he heard someone - Mad-Eye - scream, but he was already too far away to answer.
Dark-robed wizards rose on brooms from two houses down the street. He rolled and flew even closer to the ground, his boots almost touching the asphalt. Curses flew by. His scar still hurt. He glanced over his shoulder, and his eyes widened. Voldemort was flying without a broom. And gaining!
But speed wasn't everything! Harry leaned forward until he was practically lying on the broom and steered left, taking a hard turn into Mrs Figg's garden, then took a right, passing her house.
A glance told him that Voldemort had fallen back a little, trying to keep up. Harry took another turn, back to the street. The Dark Lord was leading a dozen of his Death Eaters, all chasing him. Harry couldn't see Fletcher at all.
But there was the end of the street coming up. Just another hundred yards. He started weaving as curses shot past him, blowing up parts of the street. Fifty yards. He rolled, and a green curse missed him by inches. Then he shot over the crossing, pulled up, over the house there, then back down behind it.
And behind him, the night sky lit up as two dozen curses flew towards the Death Eaters pursuing Harry. He heard screams, panicked screams, and grinned fiercely even as he urged the Firebolt on. Another street, and then he'd be outside the Anti-Apparition Wards.
And his scar didn't hurt any more.
He passed the next crossing, drew his wand, and apparated.