February 19th, 2002
Little Whinging, Surrey, England
Almost no-one took notice of the flying vessel that slowly descended over the small suburb. It was already dark despite the small, yellowish street lights and the illuminated windows of the neat, cookie-cut houses of Little Whinging. The vessel was partly cloaked, but even without that, it would have been only barely noticeable with its dark hull, the metal too rough to reflect much light. The ship was rather bulky and beaten and one would wonder how it was still able to maintain flight, let alone cross the distance between it's home and this little backwater planet. Of course, nobody in Little Whinging would know where the vessel came from. They didn't even know it was there.
The group of bandits manning the vessel was just as rugged and rough as their spaceship. Poverty struck as hard outside of earth as it did on the planet itself, but one of the bandits once belonged to another group - the Ravagers. He had been part of them for long enough to know the way to this backwater planet full of humans; far enough away from Xandar and its ever-watchful eyes to make some decent profit. It was said that The Collector wanted a human ever since meeting young Peter Quill, Yondus Boy. So they followed the dusty memories of the ex-Ravager through unmapped space and found Sol and the planet they called Terra.
There were always some younglings out in the dark. From London, they took a couple of runaways, a girl and her little brother. Their parents would fall into despair afterwards, the loss too hard to cope with. From Wales, they took a toddler out of his cradle and burned the house down. From Hastings they took an older girl with beautiful blonde curls - she couldn't sleep and was only catching a bit of fresh air in the garden when they came. Her father, who raised her all alone, took his life two years later when the police thought that they found her remains in a mass grave next to the house of a serial killer. He had murdered the man before he committed suicide.
In Surrey, they hit the jackpot - three young lads, the youngest no more than five years old. Enough to fill the rest of the cages and not to worry about money for the next couple of months. More than enough for whores and booze and new weapons and maybe a bit of a fresh up for the ship. Who knew - they said The Collector always paid well. So they ascended back into the endless skies. Two pairs of parents would howl and cry later that night. One aunt and one uncle, however, would be glad.
And up in Scotland, an old man would start to worry.
March 8th, 2002
Far away, Unmapped Space
The younglings dealt with their captivity very differently. The girl and her brother from London mostly cried the first week, until the girl decided to be strong for the small boy. They had been put into the same cage after a quick test showed that they were "from the same stock", with the same nose, the same hazel eyes, the same straight, black hair. She was two years his senior, and after her decision she tried not to show her own very real fear whenever one of the bandits came to feed the prisoners. They would always try to get some fun out of them, banging against the bars of their cages and laughing mockingly. She would try to shield her brother, taking the brunt of the spit and the occasional hit and pinch, and sooth her brother afterwards, making sure he got most of the food offered to them. Her name was Laura, and her brothers' name was Michael.
She made friends with the blonde girl with green eyes like spring leaves. Mostly because the oldest girl had been made to care for the toddler, the youngest of the seven. Her cage was right next to theirs, and they would softly talk to each other when no bandit was nearby, changing stories of their respective homes and their family. She was not as fearless as Laura pretended to be, flinching badly when they came, but she quickly came to deeply care for the little boy in her arms. She was twelve, she said, and tried her best not to cry. On the fifth day, one of the bandits hurt her leg pretty badly, and still she tried. Her name was Rose.
The three boys from Little Whinging, Surrey, were the most diverse. The oldest was seven, a gangly child with dirty blonde hair and a smatter of freckles on his cheeks and his nose. His name was Robin, and his younger brother, Malcolm, looked little different. They both were sometimes very loud, and sometimes very afraid. When the bandits came, they would huddle as far away from the pathway as possible, trying to hide in the shadows. When the bandits were away, they either tried to talk to the girls and their charges or started to intimidate the smallest of the Surrey boys, who often cried when everything was dark and no one could see. He would not speak, regardless of how many times Laura and Rose tried to talk to him. The Surrey brothers called him Freak or Four Eyes or Retard. They too did not know his given name.
Time went by slowly. There was no visible day or night, only the cage and the lights on the ceiling. The rhythm was wrong in which the lights would go dark, not at all like a proper days cycle and enough weirdness to unsettle the kids deeply. Sleep was rare, and the only saving grace between the small cages and the mocking and violence from the bandits was that they were at least fed twice a day. The smallest of the Surrey boys even started to look healthier the longer he was there. He was also the only one who had no problems with the small space he had been given, easily finding a position to sleep in.
In the end, it took nearly ten days for the girls to make him talk. They called him Green Eyes, because his' were almost unnaturally green in colour (the boys still called him Freak or Four Eyes or Scar, because he had a prominent bolt-shaped scar right on his forehead), and even when the boy finally told them that his name was Harry (in a shy whisper and in the middle of the 'night' when the other Surrey boys where fast asleep), they kept on calling him Green Eyes out of habit, which he didn't mind. He only talked when it was dark, never when the lights were on, and whenever the bandits entered the room, he would curl up into a tiny ball until they were gone.
Seventeen days after they were taken the kids woke up not to the bright, yellow-tinted light they were used to. They woke up to a dim red light, a shrill sound echoing through the whole ship. The room in which they had been caged in was empty of any bandits, but even here in the bowels of the vessel, they could hear their screams and the sound of running feet. A metallic taste was in the stale air and Rose had to quickly soothe the toddler before the boy could start crying from the unusual sounds.
"What is happening? Are they shooting?!" That was Malcolm. He was very pale as they all went still to better make out the fizzling sounds that could be heard right before a couple of loud gasps and cries.
"I think they are fighting", Laura whispered, holding Michael close. Her huge, hazel eyes were fixed on the grey door from which the bandits always came to bring them food and sometimes pain and mockery. It had just become harder to keep calm when they visited - each of the children had a new, tiny scar in their neck, where they had put the tiny translator. Now it came in handy as they could hear snippets of words - short, panicked orders and curses. More screams and cries. More metal in the air. When the door slammed open, they all scampered back against the walls. The person standing there was no bandit - at least none of those they knew, with their green jackets and the heavy boots. This one had pale, reddish skin and scales instead of hair on the back of his head. His face was still human enough to notice the visible surprise in his yellow, slanted eyes.
"Boss!" He bellowed. The screams had slowly found their end, but there were still many feet stomping above and around them, and they all stared at the alien they did not know. "Boss, there're younguns!" He held the door open for a heavy set alien, one with a darker tint to his scales, and eyes more orange than yellow. Boss too stared at the human children - Rose was rocking the toddler as if her life depended on it, while Malcolm and Robert shivered uncontrollably. Green Eyes, Harry, had rolled himself up when he noticed the screams and did not move from his position. "Livestock or goods ya reckon?"
"Goods", Boss grunted and started to inspect the children closer. "Relatively healthy, too. This one's damaged, tho." He pointed at Rose and her bandaged leg. It had not quite healed yet. "So they had a buyer, and got some spare ones." He spat on the floor before turning around. "Get them out of 'ere and onto the ship. Got some signals in, we need to get back to port before we end up Chitauri fodder."
Yellow Eyes nodded quickly. The last part made him move quickly as he fiddled with the locks on the cages. "Gotta get ya out, younguns. Dunno if we can bring ya back home, but those suckers're gone now so that's that, eh?" It took a while for the cages to give in and open up, and the children had only been able to crouch in their cages, so their legs were weak and wobbly, but one after the other got out of their cages, uncertain and afraid and so, so tired. A few other Scales soon came down in a hurry to simply carry the kids out of the prisoners' room. It was when Yellow Eyes reached Malcolm's cage when the second alarm sounded.
"Fuck." The word was hissed more than said when he listened to soft words spoken from a communicator in his pointed ear. "Fuck, fuck... dammit!" He stared for a second at the last cage he knew he would not be able to open in time, at the little curled up child, before cursing again and dragging a flinching Malcolm out of the room. The alarms were blaring now, a shrill, piercing sound. More gunfire and a huge sucking sound, like a plug, pulled out from a full bath tube.
March 14th, 2002
Somewhere Else, Beyond The Void
The Other stared at the human child in front of him. The Chitauri had brought the boy with them from one of their raids. He knew they did this occasionally, but most times said trinkets were random garbage, like pieces of metal and glass. This group, however, brought him a living being, and a young one to boot. He was not too damaged from his time with the Chitauri, who were known for their bloodlust, but obviously still traumatized by the unpleasant experience. Not that it would get any better for him. Maybe he should kill it. Maybe he should give it back to the Chitauri to play with it. He was not quite sure what to do.
Of course he could gift it to Him. He was also known to collect trinkets from His journeys, boys and girls with the potential to become powerful additions to his forces. Sons and daughters, He called them fondly. The Other was still not sure if this one had any potential. It looked weak and damaged, but then it was of no race the Other had yet encountered. At least it was not crying or weeping, but then it could also had suffered damage to its head. The Other circled the boy, tilting his head just a tiny bit, before deciding to simply kill it and be done with it.
He had not expected the flare of magic that attacked him when he tried to touch the boy.
"So you do serve a purpose."
April 2th, 2002
The Titan watched the boy being carried away. He had hoped to gain more information about the boys magic. It tasted wild to him, untamed, but certainly tameable. Unfortunately, he had not been able to get to know from where he came - his Chitauri had found the boy in deep space, but the ship he was in had already been too damaged to recover the flight routes and the boy was too young to remember any valuable information about his cradle planet. The Titan shook his head. He would take the boy in - magic wielders were rare and so very valuable, and the Other would see to it that he was properly trained. The boy had a strong will despite his pitiful body. The Titan hoped he would survive long enough to be of use for him.
At least he had enough tissue and blood samples to search for other abductees from this interesting planet where magic users were born. Another one to destroy after a rich harvest of children, hopefully.
April 28th, 2007
He still remembered the first thing he had lost. It was how it was always done - if something was not good enough, Father would take it and replace it with something better. Father wanted his children to be as strong as He was, but to be strong one had to constantly work for it. They had to force themselves, to apply themselves. Better themselves, and prove to Him that they were better. And if you failed to prove it, He would see what was weak and take it and replace it with something better.
The first thing Harry lost were his eyes.
"Weak", he still heard Father's voice saying when he lost the fight against his bother Azalel. Father had made Azalel watch later on as a gift for his win when they laid Harry down onto the Table and cut out his eyes to be replaced by a pair that would no longer hinder him. That night, Azalel almost cried more than Harry, who was still in pain from the operation. Later, when it was Harry who had won and Father ordered him to stay and watch them work on Azalel, he learned why: Under the effects of the medicine they had given him beforehand, he had not noticed all the blood. Or the screams. That night it was Harry who cried himself hoarse.
They changed who they fought with randomly. To keep them on their toes, Father said. His only rule was that brothers fought only against brothers, and sisters against sisters. His favourite, a green-skinned girl named Gamora, sometimes watched the younger brothers train and fight with a sad expression on her face. His other favourite, the Luphomoid named Nebula, already had that hard, cruel glint in her black eyes that most of the older children and all of the adults had.
With the years came more training. More fighting. More lessons. They learned how to hurt, then how to kill their enemies and occasionally each other - those who were too weak were used for Fathers lessons to never get too attached to something. It worked with most of the brothers and sisters. They stopped to trust each other, and started to work solely for their own needs, tried to win as many fights possible to prove to Him that they were not weak, but worthy. Harry won fights and lost fights. With each fight he won, he lost the love of another brother and gained a new nightmare instead.
Time was worse here than on the bandits' spaceship. The sky was always dark, the place a ruin. Cold, ugly, dead. Sometimes, Harry would remember snippets from home. Little things, like how green the grass was, or how blue the sky. He would remember something nice and compare it with what he had here. He would do that after The Other had come to give him his special training, when he felt too exhausted to eat or drink, but was still unable to sleep.
He lost more things. When his liver acted up, it was especially bad. They cut open his whole left side, where his arm had already been made stronger (because his right arm was too important, it had to stay intact, because that's where his magic came out) and replaced the liver and other things. It would have never acted up had Azalel, who started to hate him with a vengeance when Harry turned eight, not slammed him so very viciously against a pillar. Most of the older brothers hate each other now. But there are always new little children arriving, new fodder to watch when the day grew dull enough.
He was ten when one of the adult brothers came to them. Out of twenty-seven brothers of Harry's group, only five remained. The adult brother, whose name was Khzen, took him and the other four with him. Because they were old enough. Because soon they would go out into the Universe for their first kill. He looked at Harry a lot, like most of the adult brothers would do - there were seven of them, all his brothers. None of them of the Black Order, Harry noticed.
"We all are Sons of Thanos", Khzen said. "Do you love Father?" And Harry, along with his other brothers, nodded. They knew it was a lie. Only the Order loved Father, the Order and The Other, and possibly some sisters as well. He felt uncomfortable, sitting next to Azalel, who always tried to hurt him before a fight.
"We all love him. So much that I must warn you, for there is a way to kill Father, and I wish for you to be wary."
That was the day Harry heard the Prophecy for the first time and swore to always, always be his Fathers son, even if Father himself would deny him in the future. All his brothers did, even Azalel. It was a promise, held by each generation of sons, of those who still lived, to only call Him father.
"It is said that only a Son of Thanos can kill the Titan."
June 10th, 2008
Office of the Deputy Headmistress, Hogwarts
"I don't understand, Albus..."
The old wizard leaned forward to inspect the letter on the desk. All around them, nearly identical letters fluttered around, folding themselves before slipping into thick parchment envelopes. Those letters dipped down under a small pot with liquid wax in it, which dropped a dollop of wax onto the envelopes before an animated stamp punched them, leaving the Hogwarts crest behind. Next to the three people who were in the office, a magnificent and ancient quill wrote dutifully the names and addresses of the students onto the acceptance letters, one of which was placed between the fretting Minerva and a scowling Severus.
"At least we know that he is alive. Though I am not sure what this means." He sighed and turned around. "I will search my books, but you are free to send an owl with that letter." With a last glance for the envelope he made his way out of the office.
Harry James Potter,
Beyond the Void
September 12th, 2008
Mining Station 23B-Alpha-066 "The Keep", Outer Ring
"He is ready, Master." With those words, Harry was sent to collect his first kill out of the training grounds. He was eleven, though he didn't know that. Time, as it was measured on Earth, had little value for him. All that was left was surviving and getting stronger and never become cruel in his heart as most of his brothers and sisters became. Even Gamoras eyes were cold now. Harrys, as artificial as they were, had still some warmth in them. He still felt for his brothers when they were cut open and worked on. He cried in silence and silently when one of them died. He mourned the new trinkets, those poor boys and girls, when they arrived.
They had never told their sisters about the promise they had made. Gamora was almost a woman now, and he was deadly afraid of Nebula, who had killed a score of brothers already who got too close to her, but he loved them no less. He even loved Azalel, but he never told him. Maybe he still knew it - after the promise, his brother had started to talk to him again. He still won against the tall, pale boy with his too-white eyes and his wispy grey hair. Had won a couple of times, even when he tried to lose on purpose. Maybe Father knew of his love for his siblings. Maybe watching Azalel scream and bleed (never much anymore - Azalel was as heavily worked on like Nebula) was His way to punish him for his affection.
Now, however, was his first time away from the Temple. A small vessel had taken him here, not manned by Chitauri like most of Father's ships, but by humanoid aliens. The Other had told him that he was to search and kill someone who had interfered with one of Father's plans. A male Kree called El-Shyr. It was all he needed to know, The Other had said, so that he could put his lessons to good use and search for the man himself. This was a tradition for the survivors of The Temple. The first order, the first blood to shed for Father. It would, however, not be the first time Harry had killed someone - Fathers children knew death intimately. His first kill had been some sorry prisoner of Father who had no further use for Him. Others followed. Twice he had killed one of his younger brothers, those too weak to continue fighting and improving. Once, he had killed a brother by winning the fight. He had watched him die while being worked on and had been unable to sleep for many nights afterward.
This, this would be easier, he told himself as he walked through the station. Despite being used as a mining station, The Keep was a known hotspot for a multitude of trading. Far enough away from the Nova Empire to not be on their constant radar, the black market was booming in the public districts of the old station and a meeting point for people that had money on their heads. For Harry, who had never seen a station in person, who had always been a prisoner in one way or another, it was marvellous. He knew most of the races he saw - Father adopted his children for their strengths, not for their race, like he adopted Harry after The Other told him about his magic (he shuddered, thinking back to those days, thinking back to the interrogation, and swiftly pushed it back back back). They had also lessons other than fighting. Lessons about politics, about weapons, about wars and crimes and religions and engineering. About stealth. About torture.
He held his breath for a moment before continuing on his chosen path. No one batted an eye on the child walking amongst them. While most known races were humanoid enough, they did vary in things like skin colour and size, so his childlike appearance did not bother the people on the station one bit. For a moment Harry wondered if they would bother more knowing who he was. Who his Father was.
It took him a couple of hours to find El-Shyr who spent his time celebrating a deal gone well in a shady bar, surrounded by drunkards and whores and alcohol. Killing him was not a problem - he had bought some cheap poison, which would cause most races a headache and a Kree to vomit blood while their guts dissolved in a rather painful, but fast way. Anocadzin was banned under prison time throughout the whole of the Nova Empire and under death in Kree territory, but in the Outer Ring of civilized space, it was easy to produce and a rather cheap sell. It had to be cheap - Harry only had a few units to spent. The Other wanted him to kill either using a blade or his magic. It was the latter that he chose to use, hiding the vial of Anocadzin from the eyes of the mundane and floating it gently towards the table that hosted El-Shyr and his friends. A few drops would suffice. Harry used the whole two drams.
Getting away in the following chaos was easy enough. He had stood there long enough in his corner to watch the Kree spasm and die and knew that The Other had watched the scene through Harrys eyes. When he climbed back into the ship, he closed them, thinking back to all the different shops and services he had seen in The Keeps black market.