The Warlock strikes the same spot twice.
In the edge of the shadows of Park Row, Bruce Wayne reflected on the past several minutes – the unbelievable moments that had transpired before him.
What happened the previous night – the fire, the command Warlock held, the deflection of the bullets, the fierceness of the duo at his side as they almost begged for a full-on battle, and their teasing smiles as they vanished into thin air; all of it proved that he was facing a new league of opponent.
“I’m more than unstoppable… I’m the Warlock.”
Bruce closed his eyes, shaking his head ruefully.
What happened before paled in comparison to what he had just seen minutes ago.
Now… he was unsure as to what to do at this point, as stubborn as he was to admit it. The previous night, he had discovered, in a rather unpleasant way, that The Femme Fatale – the Divas of Destruction – had a new member of their group. And he was more dangerous than the both of them combined.
Though, he probably wasn’t giving Harley and Ivy enough credit. There were certainly enough missing and misplaced assets in WayneTech’s funds to prove that they were, quite possibly, the deadliest people on earth. On the streets, they really didn’t do much – small jobs, a few statements made, and a few other crimes that he suspected, but ultimately couldn’t accuse – but when they did strike, they did it with a ferocity that brought out the best in the Batman.
And whenever he attacked one, he always brought out the best in the other, more than ready to defend, for their partner’s sake.
Now, he could see exactly how close they really were, and why they fought so fiercely for each other. And as he discovered that fact, a new ripple appeared in the form of Warlock. Now he knew what he was truly dealing with.
Nothing could convince him more that he was facing a very dangerous man – a man that could seemingly talk to a different country without any technology, raise the dead, and has a seemingly endless supply of his power and influence. Any of those alone would be a daunting task to overcome.
But it didn’t matter. None of it mattered. The information coming in from Captain Gordon was something that could be very useful. He needed every bit of information if he hoped to track them down. By the sound of things, they were living in the same home. Unfortunately for him, it seemed very unlikely that he would ever be able to follow them.
He had to have a history somewhere else, likely in Europe; he also had to have done something to catch the duo’s attention in the first place.
He paused. The heist. It had to be it. It was so outside of Harley’s character, the act of sneaking in and out completely undetected, that she had to have learned it fromsomeone.
He was with her that night. It would explain how she quickly escaped their sights.
He needed to go to the crime scene – the police may have gathered what evidence they could, but he had more to work with now.
He could see what they were becoming, and they needed to be stopped. He had a great deal of planning to do.
But first, he had to find Nigma – and quick.
“What…? What am I looking at?” Selina asked the uncomfortably silent room carefully. “Pam? Harls? Can someone tell me what I’m looking at?”
No one responded. She probably wouldn’t have been able to hear them, let alone be pleased by whatever answer she got. Already disoriented by the uneasy feeling of popping from one place to another, she didn’t need another disconcerting moment in its place.
Juliet leaned forward on her front paws, before slowly strutting forward. Her piercing red eyes were on the new presence, tense and ready, while her ears perked up at the sound of her followers staying close. She began her slow inspection of their subject, her tail twitching in excitement as she started to circle her newest… inquisition.
She stopped abruptly as Twilight bravely marched forward, and looked into the subject’s eyes with her own steely grey.
The mysterious black cat didn’t flinch – it just stared back curiously, its entire form relaxed, yet intimidating, as it looked down at the smaller, by comparison, form.
Juliet licked a striped paw as she waited impatiently for the staring contest to finish, before looking up to her owner.
Harley was knocked out of her transfixed stupor by her tigress’s stare, and looked away from the green-eyed panther. “Did somebody say something?”
Ivy flinched in surprise as a tail brushed against her bare leg, and her head snapped towards the golden lion peering up at her with icy blue eyes. “I missed you too, you little squirt.”
“Hey!” Harleen complained indignantly. “I don’t hear her calling you anything!”
Selina’s eye twitched. “Maybe because you don’t speak cat.”
“I’m not even pointing out the irony,” Ivy muttered, leaning down on one knee to brush her hand against Bubbles’s soft golden coat.
They heard an unmistakable growl, which came out more like a chuckle, as the large black cat was licked on the side of his face by the snow leopard beside him.
“I think they like him,” Harleen noted, amused. “More than me, I think. Though, if I had the powers of a Manimal, I think they’d be more receptive to me, too.”
Ivy tried to make sense of the sleek, large, black panther with familiar green eyes, still absently petting the purring lion. “When… when we get back. I want you to write down every single trick you have. It’s okay to surprise others – I don’t like surprises.”
The panther did an equivalent of a shrug, mindful of the leopard’s head resting against his shoulders, and looked back over to Juliet, whose eyes were back on him.
She began circling him again. His eyes followed her imperiously, a relaxed confidence in the air while he was being stalked upon.
In the end, she stopped at Harley’s feet, and her nostrils flared. She looked up at Harley, and back at the imposing figure.
“Hah!” Selina boasted. “She smells him all over you!”
Harleen reached her hand down to pet her youngest feline. “Note to self – sex and hygiene aren’t best friends. Isn’t that right, Jules-y?”
There was a groan, and everyone’s head snapped back to the green-eyed wizard, who now had a relaxed Twilight across his human legs, stroking her gently from head to tail with his human hands. “A baby voice? Really? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but…” he made a tired groan again, conveying his feelings on the matter.
“We can’t all be Catboys,” she said scathingly, narrowing her eyes. “Was that a trick you learned ten minutes ago? What the hell was that?”
“I can transform my hair, my eyes, and my own skin,” Harry explained, scratching lightly behind the leopard’s ear. “If I tried, I could look like you. An animal transformation doesn’t sound too impossible.”
Harley shook her head, trying to make the headache go away. “Trust me – it does.”
“I’ve just got the one,” he said quickly. “You know – if that means anything. I’m not going to turn into a cockroach in bed or anything.”
“Oh, that’s cute,” Ivy tittered, standing back up. “You still think you have bed privileges.”
“You guys sleep in the same bed?” Selina wondered, grinning like her namesake. “Well, at least he’s housebroken.”
Harry looked around at the three mildly irritated women. “I feel like I’m being ganged up on.”
Juliet purred lazily under her owner’s fingers, and Harry chuckled. “Well, yeah, I suppose the ‘good way’ is out of the question, now, isn’t it?”
“A book,” Harleen muttered. “It’s going to take an entire fucking book, isn’t it? To list all the powers you have.”
Harry shook his head. “Actually, Hermione’s been keeping detailed notes. It’s kind of emasculating, just writing down what I can and can’t do.”
Bubbles, feeling ignored, moved over to Harry, calmly tucking her head into his outstretched palm.
Ivy leaned against the chair in the sitting room, trying to absorb the astounding sight before her. “Why? Because it’s just not impressive enough?”
“It’s not that,” Harry tried to defend himself. “But it kind of is. I mean, she’s just going for the basics. I can turn into a Shadow Panther, I’m a Metamorphmagus, I can do wandless magic – but what about the other stuff? No mention on how I can cook, or how good I am with my hands, or how well I can sing. Okay, I can’t really sing, but a mention of the things that aren’t so… strange, helps. I mean, most of the things that I do weren’t things I could do without a lot of help.”
“What do you mean by that?” Harley wondered, sitting with Juliet, rubbing her upright back. “Magical rituals or something? Virgin blood and frog tongues?”
“We tend to use salamander tongues more, actually. And virgin blood doesn’t mean much in rituals, from what Daphne could find. No, it’s more to do with me being bitten by quite a few magical creatures. After I found out I had a Horcrux, I began to lack in inhibitions. It wasn’t until I met Fawkes, my phoenix, when I really started taking drastic measures. When you have a dark lord after you, and you’re partially immortal, you do anything you can to get a leg up.” He looked down to the white mountain cat; she seemed to have fallen asleep on his legs. “Unfortunately, I don’t have powers that would stop my legs from falling asleep. Or super-strength.”
Harley looked around awkwardly. “Well, whaddya want us to do about it? Twilight isn’t exactly portable.”
“How did you get them here?” Harry inquired. “Wherever here is?”
Selina fished out her jade stone and put it on her shelf, before turning back to the two trios. “We’re in an old building complex that I spruced up a bit.” At Ivy’s raised brow, she frowned. “Remember when I was looking for a room?”
Pamela looked around the dark room some more. It had a lot of high-end furniture, in a low-end shack. The television set upon a polished oak cabinet, which sat upon a Persian rug. The dusty floor below it, however, discredited the otherwise elegant view.
The green-skinned girl sighed. “Harley, what do you think?”
“She keeps the whip and claws away from me, and we don’t have a problem,” she said simply, scratching the young tigress’s chin.
She eyed her boyfriend warily. “Harry?”
“Your house,” he said simply. “I’m a visitor. Sorry for not telling you before about my form. Just thought it would be a pleasant surprise, is all. The moment I heard you had a pet, I made the decision not to mention it.”
She could tell that he was genuinely upset at their reactions, and her voice softened. “It was a surprise. We just had an overreaction. It was… unexpected.”
Harleen laughed heartily. “As opposed to everything else you’ve done since you got here.”
“Here?” Selina looked at her weirdly. “He just got here. You mean here in Gotham?”
Harley shook her head. “Nope. America. As you can tell by the accent, he’s not from around here.”
“And don’t ask how we met,” Harry quipped. “We’re still thinking of a cover-story.”
The ebony-haired beauty opened her mouth; then closed it silently. “I don’t want to know. So, do I have a room?”
Pamela nodded. “Sure. Fair warning – Harley’s in heat.”
Her girlfriend blushed furiously. “Well y-you don’t need to say it like that! It’s not like you two are helping!”
“We’re actively not helping,” The raven-haired teen supported her claim. “We’re encouraging it, really.”
“As if I was saying it like it was a bad thing.” Pamela smirked. “So, while the walls are soundproofed, there will always be a standing ‘Enter Before Knocking’ policy enforced.”
Selina nodded vigorously, grateful. “No problem. I won’t even knock – I’ll just stay the hell away.”
“I should probably be insulted by that,” Harry muttered nonchalantly, still scratching the purring lion’s head between the ears, “considering you had a completely different tune before you met me.”
The spandex-clad thief hummed to herself. “And then I met you.”
“Play nice, kids,” Harleen chastised the two, before hugging her pet tiger to herself. “I’ve missed you so much, Jules-y. Yes I ha-ave!”
Harry shrugged at the tigress’s pointed look. “Yeah, I guess it’s something I have to get used to.”
“Oh, shut it! She likes the way I talk to her. She thinks it’s cute! Don’t you, Julesey Woolsey~~”
“I think it’s time to go now, Harley,” Ivy interrupted, pinching the bridge of her nose. She was starting to think that she liked it better when the dear girl was sexed out. “To our home,” she said pointedly to Harry. She hadn’t forgotten that ‘visitor’ nonsense. “We can pick up this stuff later.”
He looked around. “I’ve never shrunken any electronics before. I don’t want to risk it. I can handle the furniture, though.”
“I’ll handle the more… personal items,” Selina purred, “and I could always steal more furniture. Though it would be a pretty good challenge for me. Getting all these things to the outskirts of Gotham…”
Harley still had a pressing question to pose – “What about Selina’s cats? They don’t get along with my babies. I don’t think that arrangement’s gonna work long.”
“They’ll get along,” Harry assured her, subtly slipping out of the massive weight of the snow leopard on his legs, having successfully put the cat to into a near comatose sleep. “They were just rather defensive of Juliet’s… cravings.”
The three girls stared at him weirdly, and he felt a sense of déjà vu. He nervously cleared his throat. “She’s in heat.”
After a few moments of silence, Harleen looked at her dear tiger, looked at Harry, and spoke. “You’re not fucking my cat.”
Harry laughed; a rich, pure laugh. “I didn’t even consider that thought!”
She raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Really? Why? She not good enough for you?”
He let out a mirthful scoff. “I wouldn’t know – I’m human.”
Harleen eyed the shape-shifter incredulously. “So was that another illusion?”
“No,” he explained, “I was an actual panther. I could talk to them and everything, if they bothered to speak. Every witch or wizard has at least one form. Hermione’s is an eagle and a lion.”
“And your other form?” Ivy wondered, and Selina would be lying to herself if she wasn’t a little curious.
“Just the one,” Harry shrugged, “and it seems that no matter what I do, the one form is all I can achieve. Since our magical cores are linked through our spiritual core, I can do her forms and she can do mine. With a twist.”
“Of course there’s a twist,” Harley smirked, expecting no less. “Let me guess? With the powers combined, when the blue moon rises and the stars are in the shape of a lightning bolt, you can turn into a dragon?”
“That would be pretty cool,” Harry said wistfully, before he shook his head, his loose ebony hair swishing against his ears. “No. I don’t really need a dragon. I’ve had enough of dealing with those. What happens is Hermione’s eyesight, in her eagle form or not, can see miles ahead. My panther form can run faster than Hermione’s lion form. Little indiscretions like that.”
Selina nodded knowingly. “Okay, that’s odd. Lionesses are the second-fastest cats in the world. I’m also assuming that you both can speak to animals even when not in that form?”
He nodded. “Not very useful unless you’re looking for someone.”
“Speaking of which,” Selina inquired, “Who is Hermione? Your sister?”
“Close,” the Boy-Who-Lived admitted slowly, “Or rather, closer. To the outside eye, she’s my best friend.”
“… Am I still considered an outsider?” She wondered incredulously after a few seconds of silence.
The green-eyed boy took a moment to consider. “Yes,” he said in the end. “I don’t know much about you, nor you about me. I don’t know your intentions, nor do you know mine.”
Her black gloves rubbed her chin. “Fair enough, I guess.” She grinned. “But I’m going to guess that she’s your friend with benefits.”
“Huh,” Harleen said plainly. “Never considered that term before.”
“I’ve always thought it the same thing,” Pamela argued, shrugging. “Friends who have sex. The only thing missing is the monogamous commitment. Technically, I guess, that’s a term that describes us.”
“You wouldn’t consider us committed?” Harry asked them curiously.
“In the classical sense – no,” the blonde admitted, “though I can tell you quite a few psychiatric treatment doctors that might argue with that. Still, I suppose in a more modern era, it’s a less relevant term. Commitment is overrated.”
“Says the girl who was in a one-girl dedicated relationship two days ago,” Ivy pointed out with a sly grin. She looked over to Bubbles and Twilight, who were purring under Harry’s gentle hands. “Though you make it very difficult to regret our actions – so far.”
“So far,” he confirmed. “You don’t know how bad my luck can run most times.”
“Hot blonde, smokin’ exotic redhead, and a dominatrix that takes her role too seriously,” Harley ticked them off. “All in about thirty-six hours. I look forward to seeing what you consider good luck.”
“Don’t involve me in your little stable,” Selina held up her hands. “I plan on paying for my room with money, thank you.”
Ivy rolled her eyes. “You done pimping out our man, Harley? We’ve still got an appointment for today, and we need to go get dressed.”
The young blonde patted the tiger once more on the head, then jumped up. “Where to, Red?”
“Well,” she began, “if we’re going to murder Bruce Wayne, I’ll assume we need some reinforcements. Getting into his mansion probably won’t be easy.”
“It won’t be,” Harry shook his head. “Which is one of the many reasons we can’t kill him yet.”
She crossed her arms, lightly frowning. “I’m listening.”
“Yeah,” Selina agreed, leaning against the wall. “I kind of want to hear this.”
Harley tilted her head. “I can see why you wouldn’t want to kill him now, but you said that he could be useful. How? Do you see him joining our side anytime soon? Or are we talking mind-control here?”
He raised an eyebrow. “You have a very active imagination,” he smirked.
She waved it off. “It’s always the crazy ones.” She crossed her arms, much like her girlfriend, with the exception of a soft smile on her lips. “Well?”
“I’m not going to lie; I’m betting the idea is tempting to you. When Hermione gets back to us with the comics, it’s going to be even more tempting. We’ll know everything that happened, and everything that could potentially happen. I’m betting I won’t be in it, so I can only imagine that there’s going to be a lot of changes starting today.”
“Did I miss something?” Selina raised her hand.
“You’re supposed to raise your hand first,” Harley pointed out.
She shrugged. “I never went to school. So what’s all this about a comic? Everything that could potentially happen, you said? You’re telling me that you can see into the future?”
“Even where I come from, soothsayers are widely considered skeptical,” Harry chuckled, “Including me. I get the occasional bad feeling of impending doom, but other than that, I couldn’t tell you what you’re doing tomorrow. Long story short, you’ve probably been catalogued in a series based on the adventures of the guy you fight on a weekly basis. He’s the star, and you’re all the antagonists.”
“Which is bullshit, by the way,” Harleen sniffed. “He’s a guy in a costume. That’s generic. It’s not like he’s the world’s only superhero or something, and he’s not even super! It shouldn’t be a comic, it should be a movie, and I should be the star. Cecilia Sunbeam stars as the world renowned Daring Demoness Harley Quinn!”
“You put thought into that,” Pamela said slowly. “Do I get a part in your feature?”
“Trilogy,” she corrected her, “and of course. The Seductive Siren, Poison Ivy, played by Roxanne Snow.”
Her lips quirked. “Siren?”
A glimmer of playfulness sparkled in her eyes. “In my world, babe, you’re ascreamer.”
“I don’t think I’d mind that,” the Boy-Who-Lived slowly admitted with a grin. “But before we get to your own movie trilogy, we’re going to have to get to a place where we’re in control. Police will be a problem, yes. And so will Batman. But what about the others?”
“Others? You mean the other superheroes?”
He shook his head. “They’re a much bigger problem that we’ll have to deal with later. I’m talking about the guys who want to do what we’re about to do. We try to take this city, the ones who already have it, or are looking forward to taking it, will be threatened by us.”
Ivy and Harley seemed to absorb that information, while Selina still looked confused. “You still haven’t told me about these comic books.” Irritation seeped into her voice. “You telling me we’re all being recorded or something? Somebody else out there knows who all of us are?”
Harry frowned. He knew she would have to be introduced to his world sooner rather than later. “I don’t know. Not yet. I only know of his lore, and that he seems to be a popular figure where I’m from, and no, it’s not from this world.”
She blinked. “You’re an alien?”
Harry, not really having any other reference, nodded.
The spandex-clad thief shook her head wryly. “Now things are starting to make sense around here!” She looked over to Harleen. “So how’s the… probing?”
She didn’t show a hint of embarrassment. “Really? That’s the best pun you could come up with? Probing? What do you expect me to say? ‘Out of this world?’ You can do better, Kyle.”
The ebony-haired girl flushed. “Give me a break, alright! I’ve never met an alien before, when the fuck am I gonna get the chance to say it again?”
The blonde only rolled her eyes. “Kind of my point.”
Ivy had by now approached Harry, and was leaning against him, watching the two bicker. “We could just leave them here, for a while,” she suggested with a whisper. “She sent her cats here so they would get acclimated to Selina and her pets. I think Harley should get the same treatment as well.”
“I can hear you,” Harley whispered to her girlfriend, just as lowly, as if keeping the same secret. “Whispering only helps when we’re yelling.”
“Then how come no one heard me when I asked if we were ready to go?”
Selina whistled through her teeth a calm, low whistle, and a second later, a brown-spotted tabby zipped from behind the television and leaped into her waiting arms. She began stroking its harried fur delicately, before looking back at Harley. “Believe it or not, this one was the least afraid of my cats. Sasha will be my only carry-on.”
The green-eyed wizard nodded approvingly at the useful skill, before reaching down to rub his hand across Twilight’s vast spine. “Everybody hold hands – you know the deal.”
After some confusion on the jungle cats’ sakes, and a final look at the run-down shack, Selina nodded, and the significantly larger group disapparated.
Harry caught himself as he almost slammed forward onto the business end of his fork.
“You okay, Harry?” Parvati asked worriedly, putting her quill back in the inkwell next to her essay, her half-eaten meal forgotten. She eyed him carefully. “Did you get any sleep last night?”
“I’m alright, Pad,” He slurred, “was just up a bit late. No problems.”
She frowned. “Is it about Hermione?” she asked softly, eying the Great Hall for any onlookers.
“Hermione?” Susan wondered, sitting across from Harry. “Is she alright? I assumed she went to class early.”
Parvati shook her head. “There was a family emergency – she had to go home for the weekend. That’s what Lavender told me, anyway.”
“Oh,” Susan gasped. “Harry, do you know what happened?”
He shook his head, not trusting himself to speak, considering that it was a cover story he had convinced Lavender to spread. Hermione, physically, had gotten better, but she still wouldn’t awaken. It was the only thing he could think of, and had been thinking of for the past three days.
He had told her a lot of things that had happened at the Dursley home, and his journey abroad, but now, she knew… everything. She knew the worst of the worst, now.
Harry didn’t know if he would ever tell her about ‘Harry Hunting’. He didn’t think he would ever explain that while Dudley got bored of any new toys he had very quickly throughout his lifetime, his favorite toy, that lasted for an astonishing three months, was the fire-poker, that was only discarded when it was far too bent – of course, Harry was to blame, for not being fragile enough. He never wanted to tell Hermione about the breaks, the snaps, the internal bleeding that he had to endure on his sixth birthday, when he innocently asked his aunt what day it was, literally not having a clue as to what day it was.
But if there was one thing that he had promised never to tell anyone, it was the ruddy cupboard.
He honestly didn’t know what point he had stopped worrying about his friend’s well-being, and started worrying about his own secrets revealed to her, and he felt ashamed of himself for it. But it didn’t stop him from worrying, never-the-less.
He still felt her lips on his three days ago – their first kiss. It was out of nowhere – and, for a moment, he thought it was truly just a ploy to get him to shut up. But he knew her.
However, it now seemed that she knew him better than anyone else. Maybe she knew that he wanted a kiss? Could she have done that just to appease him? Could it have been pity? A spark of emotion, generated from his soul half in her body? Could anything she try to feel in the future simply be an extension of his own emotions? Could she never have her own feelings expressed again, and she would be nothing but a vessel?
His mind had been in turmoil for the past three days with these pressing –exasperating questions. And now, on a Monday, he had to deal with classes.
He had ordered Snape to go on sick leave, so he could spend all of his time on looking over Hermione, but it would be suspicious if both he and Hermione were conveniently sick.
On the plus side, he finally had confirmation from Tonks – The rat was flooed to Madam Bones the previous night. In a matter of days, Sirius would be free. He seemed to be relatively comfortable inside Potter Mansion, but Harry was sure he’d like the idea of stretching his legs a bit. Maybe get a place of his own. Sirius, bless him, could never be much of a father figure. Harry had been more of the parent in their relationship during the times he wasn’t walking Padfoot, or when Hermione was at school and he needed a friend to play with.
Perhaps it was best if Sirius went off and lived his own life – the life he was never allowed to have. He seemed particularly pleased when he read that he was merely anational criminal.
Harry Potter – all alone, once again. As it probably should have been from the beginning.
“You’re not alone, Harry.”
He didn’t bother to react. He had been hearing Hermione’s voice all night, in short statements, once or twice an hour, and he resolved to himself to take a dreamless sleep potion tonight.
“Harry,” Parvati said quietly, and he lifted his head weakly to meet her brown, curious eyes. “Would you rather take the day off? I’ll take your notes for you.”
He wanted to shake his head, but it was far too heavy to put it in such a motion. So he just stared.
She bit her lip nervously. “You and Hermione have the highest marks in our year so far. I don’t think they’d mind if you played hooky once.”
Susan, unbeknownst to Harry, had gotten up and stood behind him. “Let’s take you back to the common room,” she said gently. Harry, unable to do anything, allowed Susan to lift him to his feet. He swayed a little, and Susan caught him, and he quickly righted himself. He quickly decided that having someone carry him everywhere was not something he wanted repeated anytime soon.
He wildly shook his head and sleepily thanked Susan, before stumbling towards the doors of the Great Hall, ignorant of the murmurs and whispers around him.
The Fat Lady’s portrait was finally in his sight when he noticed that Susan and Parvati was behind him – and he only noticed when they began talking to a third person.
“Are you sure you should be with us right now?” Susan said carefully, her eyes glancing back and forth between Daphne and Harry’s faltering walk.
The platinum blonde had her arms crossed as she eyed the boy in front of him. “They won’t be a problem. Is he alright?”
Parvati shook her head. “He called me Padma earlier. He must be out of it.”
Daphne tried not to show her surprise. Sometimes, even she got the two confused, when not looking or listening for the tells, but Harry had never mistaken one for the other – he made it look easy. “Does this have to do with Hermione’s absence?”
“Word spreads fast,” Susan admitted. “So you know about her family emergency?”
She frowned. “Makes more sense than what I heard.”
“What did you hear?” the redhead inquired.
“I heard that she was injured when she and Harry battled that troll together.”
The two girls were in a shocked silence when Harry murmured the password to the Fat Lady (“Lionheart.”). He carefully leaned against the swinging portrait passageway and turned back to the girls. “Thanks,” he muttered tiredly and awkwardly. He had no idea what they were talking about, but he assumed it was something big by the way they were looking at him.
“Did you…” Susan tried to phrase her words carefully, knowing how private he and Hermione were about some things. “Is Hermione okay, Harry?”
Even through restless eyes, he could see the sincerity in hers. “She’s better,” he promised, yawning as he did so – not bothering to cover his mouth.
The girls took no offense, but they did look concerned. “You should get some sleep, Harry,” Parvati said gently, but firmly. “You look a wreck.”
“I am,” he promised again, before he promptly fainted dead, not hearing their shrieks of surprise and worry.
“ You’re never alone. We’ll take care of you.”
Severus eyed the misty archway before him with disdain.
“Such power,” he murmured in reverence, almost admiring the ancient artifact. “A doorway into another world. The Dark Lord is now gone, and dear Harold taken into another life. The mysteries you hold…”
Daphne cleared her throat. “It’s not that mysterious anymore. Fleur and I figured it out, with help from Tonks and Harry.”
Tracey leaned against the wall with her arms crossed, eying the veil with pure hatred. “I don’t know whether to destroy the bloody thing when we’re done with it or use it against the rest of the followers.”
Severus joined his hands behind his back. “I wouldn’t put it behind some of them to have a Horcrux of their own.”
“That’s the thing that we discovered,” Daphne told her Head of House, before pulling out a chain attached to a locket. “A week ago, this locket was heavy. Now, it’s noticeably lighter. And that was our first clue.” She pushed some light strands of blondish blue hair from her eyes as she handed him the locket, which he took with minutely trembling hands. “It’s gone. The Horcrux is completely gone.”
His fingers ran over the emerald stones that laid an ‘S’ form, feeling a chill up his spine at the serpentine design, before he sneered. “Did it escape?”
She shook her head. “It’s always a possibility. But the more likely answer is that it’s gone. Gone with Harry’s soul. It couldn’t take that degree of separation, and it was ripped from Voldy himself.”
Snape cringed. Even now, it was strange to hear a Slytherin call the Dark Lord by the name ‘Voldy’. “What of Mister Potter? The same should have happened to him and Miss Granger.”
“Yes, it should have,” a slightly accented voice agreed with them. They turned to see Miss Delacour stalk into the room with purpose, her eyes locked on the veil. A brilliantly gleaming tiara sat askew upon her head, loose strands covering her stunning visage. It didn’t ruin her beauty, or mar her tired stare. “Harry and Hermione would have died two days ago, if he had gone through this veil unprotected.” She closed her eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. “However, thankfully, they are protected by Death itself.”
Snape tried not to show his confusion, but Daphne seemed to pick up on it anyway. “When I was a child,” she began, “I read a story about three brothers, and how they managed to trick Death. One of the prizes awarded was a cloak of invisibility that lasts forever. The other was a stone that communicates with the dead. The last was a wand that made the castor unbeatable.” Her eyes flashed dangerously. “I was there when it happened at the Ministry. Hermione was setting traps for the Death Eaters. ‘Expelliarium Wards’, she called them; Domes that could disarm you the second you stepped through, leaving you open to attack. That way, if any of us got caught in the almost unnoticeable ward, we could still protect ourselves, but very few others could use Wandless Magic to that degree. Dumbledore walked through that room, saw his wand fly out his hand, and I’ve never seen him so grave before. He looked straight at me and asked me who put up the ward. I was rather busy fighting Rodolphus, but I don’t think he believed me when I told him that I didn’t know. He picked up his wand, and I saw him struggle as he performed simple charms on the ward. The fact that he never found out who cast it is evidence enough that Dumbledore’s wand, oddly, became useless to him.”
Her eyes burned a hole through the back of his head, and Severus, had he not been an accomplished Occlumens, would have felt violated at that very moment. “He still doesn’t know that Hermione is the true owner of that wand – the Elder Wand.”
He took a moment to absorb that information. “And the Resurrection Stone?”
“The ring,” Fleur murmured with confidence. “The Gaunt Ring. That’s not their coat of arms etched into it. It’s the symbol of the three hallows. I don’t know how it can be activated, but it should. Harry and Hermione cannot be touched as long as one or both of them have that protection. Even death’s portal knew that.”
Severus blinked. “And what of the Dark Lord?”
“His soul was a leech,” Daphne spat, “and it was treated as such. It was always sucking off of Harry and Hermione’s soul, never actually being a part of it. It was never truly connected.”
“That’s our thoughts, anyway,” Fleur disclaimed, sighing tirelessly into her hands. She seemed to remember something, and removed the familiar diadem from the top of her head. “Hermione will be pleased to know that this works.”
“We’ll have to tell Hermione about Sirius,” Tracey said depressingly. “She’ll probably take it better than Harry would.”
“The ritual will take more than a few days.” She looked pointedly at Snape, once again. “Which is why we summoned you here.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I am no alchemist, Miss Greengrass. I would not have the slightest idea on how to use the Stone.”
She shook her head. “I figured as much. No, we need a distraction for Dumbledore. The press will provide that for us. We just have to give them the bait. Unlock Voldemort’s door. Let everyone know what happened to their precious Lord.”
His throat tightened. He would have to do it quick; he’d rather not be there for any reactions. “And how will that get back to the media?”
“Lavender already knows the story. All she needs is a picture. Or a pensieve memory.”
“And what of the Alchemist?”
She shook her head. “We’ll have to talk to Hermione about it.”
“Maybe. If he’s willing to help.” She shrugged. “We don’t have him on a payroll or anything. We’d probably have to give him an artifact in return. We left on good enough terms.”
Severus eyed the veil one last time before stalking out of the room.
Tracey sighed tirelessly in the silence. “We’ve been holding up rather well. Daph?”
“Better than I would’ve ever thought,” she chuckled. “I suppose when we signed up for this, we should have suspected something to happen. This year has been rather uneventful.”
A soft glow emitted from Fleur’s delicate hand. “Lucky you. I’ve had to deal with nosy classmates. And Gabrielle would not stop talking about her upcoming maturity.”
The younger girls eyed her pulsing hand. “Fleur?” Daphne started slowly.
Her sights were set on the archway in front of her. “This thing; what have you done with it?” She inquired testily.
Daphne considered her words. “Nothing too experimental. Just seeing who can go in and out, and where they might lead.”
“So you’ve never tried a spell?”
“Objects? Yes. Spells? No.”
Flames flickered into life in her palm, before a raging ball of heat swirled between her fingers. “No time like the present.”
~Present Day, Outskirts of Gotham~
“Seriously, though. You’re not having sex with Juliet.”
Harry feigned sadness. “What’s the point of turning into an animal if I can’t move to the jungle and assert myself as the king?”
Ivy snorted. “You practically did when you came here.”
Harley got the hint, and rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, I get it. You’re not as into being a cat as Selina, I guess.” She laughed at the irony.
“If anything,” Harry shrugged, “Sirius would be your biggest problem. He’s sort of looked down upon in my world, which makes it difficult for him to get any attention from the fairer sex. His animagus form is a dog.”
Ivy slipped off her flip-flops and sat on their bed, groaning as she did so. “And to think, we were only going to see a dinner and a movie today.”
“We still can,” he suggested. “Or we could cause some havoc and draw out Batman again. We need to talk.”
“Don’t bother,” she shook her head. “He only shows up at night.”
Harry looked confused. “Then who shows up during the day?”
“Er – the police?”
“That’s a bit… odd, don’t you think?”
Harley moved over to her drawer, where Harry remembered her dedicated outfits to be. “I’ve stopped trying to make sense of this city a long time ago. Makes things easier. So, where to?”
Pamela raised an eyebrow at his mischievous grin. “Last time you looked like that, you showed us the Warlock.” She began to smile. “What do you have planned?”
“Any idea where Eddie might be?”
“He told me – in a riddle. Why?”
“And we’re live in five, four, three, two – ”
A short pause. “This is Vicki Vale from GCTV News, reporting live from the scene of Gotham’s latest chaotic rampage. Until now, we haven’t been able to give you any close-up footage of the crime scene since the now infamous bird’s eye view of this very spot – The spot where a new criminal mastermind infiltrated the city of Gotham working with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn – there isn’t much information we can gather, but for now, he is known simply as the Warlock.”
She brushed her shoulder-length hair back, looking perturbed as she glanced behind her. “No information has been released to the public as of yet. The police are struggling to find answers to the mysterious appearance and disappearance of the new threat. Behind me, you can see the taped off scene, including the police cars inside the tape. Those cars were the ones destroyed beyond repair in what appeared to be a shockwave caused by a clap of the Warlock’s hands. There is no trace of gunpowder or radiation, so we don’t have any other choice to believe that there was no other – ”
“It was an earthquake,” Harvey grunted, walking past them towards the scene. “Nothin’ to see here, people.”
“Really, Bullock?” She put her free hand on her hip, not amused. “Do you really expect the people to believe that?”
“I don’t expect you to believe anything! Get that camera outta here!”
“So I’m guessing you’re not willing to answer a few questions for us?” She looked towards the camera. “Detective Bullock, in his ever-reaching wisdom, does not believe in freedom of speech.”
“I believe in free speech,” he snarled. “You just need ta’ shut up when you do it!”
She huffed into the mic. “As it appears we won’t be getting any information from Gotham’s finest, especially while he’s busy with his donuts – ”
Bullock scowled and held the bag of confectionary treats to himself, stalking off to the team.
” – we will now take it back to the court house, where the newly elected District Attorney Dent will address this matter. Hopefully he will have more answers on who – or what – we are dealing with, and if he doesn’t, we will certainly find something for you, the viewers.”
She flicked off the microphone and pocketed her weapon of choice. Glancing around, she noticed the sheer… inactivity of the policemen involved, and sighed heavily to herself. “We’re all screwed.”
“Maybe,” the cameraman agreed, rubbing his shoulder, “but I don’t think that’s the info the people want.”
“They could use a dose of reality,” she grumbled. “Is it me, or is the fact that an insane woman threatening to essentially eliminate mankind until the plants are left is the one is starting to make sense?”
Before the cameraman could respond, he winced in pain. “Ah! Damn thing!” He removed the offending equipment from his ear and eyed the small earpiece with disdain. “I think the whole damn radio’s broken again. These are new.”
She rolled her eyes. “I told them to get this fixed. We can’t continue if you don’t know when to turn on the camera.”
“We still got yours,” he reminded her. “I’ll call them and tell them to give you the signal instead.”
She looked displeased, but couldn’t really argue to his point. She pulled her radio from her jean pocket, what the earpiece would have been plugged to, had she not gotten rid of them months ago, and turned it on. “I’ll do it myself. Got a spare?”
He checked his carry-on bag and pulled out a spare wrapped cord. “Hopefully, this won’t pop in your ear.”
“And you wonder why I don’t use them,” she grumbled, but gratefully took the offered buds. “Live stories don’t need breaks. Why do you have breaks?”
“Everyone loves the new DA,” he muttered, picking back up his camera. “That’s when our ratings are at the highest. Nothing but…” he trailed off as he realized who was talking to.
“Hopeless housewives and teenage girls who need a strong man to tell them everything is okay?” She fluttered her eyelashes.
He laughed heartily. “Something like that!”
“Then fuck that,” she scowled. “Pretty boy can’t arrest anyone without any evidence, or hell, even proof of existence! Let’s look deeper. There’s got to be something here, and I’m going to find it.”
“Well, you did make that promise.”
She furrowed her brows, her fingers pressing into the hearing device embedding in her ear. She tried to recognize the voice. “Hello? Can you hear me?”
“ Yes, yes I can.”
She narrowed her eyes. “How? There’s no mic on this thing.”
She glanced around subtly, ignoring her co-worker as her keen eyes scouted the area. “Warlock? Or some wannabe?”
“You fuckin’ serious?” her co-worker muttered in surprise, but she waved him off, waiting to hear his response.
“ Either way, I don’t think you want to find out the answer to that.”
“I’m an investigative journalist; of course I want to know.” She shifted on her feet, and glanced back to the police, who were all sitting on the hoods of the decimated cars and sharing Bullock’s donuts on their lunch break.
“Don’t bother, honey,” a different voice soothed in her ear, unabashedly female.“The ones doing any work are either at the station or elsewhere, actually looking for us.”
She was familiar with that voice, through the echoes of Gotham as she threatened the livelihood of men everywhere. “Pamela?”
“You read my file.” She sounded surprised.
“And a good one at that. If I recall correctly, you were the one that actually broke the news of the Mayor’s wife going missing, and found his mistress.”
She walked off from the scene, running her fingers through her blond hair as she steadily collected herself, conversing with one of the most dangerous women in the world. “She was a friend, and I thought he had killed her. That was a technicality. Wait – how do you know about that?”
“About her being kidnapped? Well, it was on the news – you reported it after all.”
“No,” she shook her head, a part of her knowing that someone was looking at her, “why do you bring up that specific case? Did… did you kidnap her?”
“What did you do to her?”
“More like what she threatened to do to us. She wanted my dear Harley’s number. Poor girl had nightmares for weeks.”
She frowned. She wasn’t sure what to believe, but she knew she was getting some kind of truth. As she talked to her friend about the case, there were so many inconsistencies in the descriptions and the chain of events that she had to let the story go, not wanting to put her friend in a bad light. She swore up and down that she couldn’t tell her what really happened, but that it was nothing dangerous or harmful.
Vicki could only guess that it was something as simple as a getaway or an affair, as there were no bruises anywhere except for rope burns on her wrists. She had to make up a story herself, to cover the mayor’s wife, and in the end, got a promotion from the story with the description and events that she ‘acquired’, along with breaking the story to begin with.
And by the way Isley talked, she had no doubt that she knew the entire story was false. “Alright,” she muttered. “Is this blackmail? I’m honored.”
There was a chuckle on the other line. “No. This is an opportunity. You promised those people some more information. And lucky you; you get to follow up.”
“You praise me for my journalism, and spoonfeed me?”
“No – I’m rewarding you. You could be useful to our cause. We need a mouthpiece.”
“At least you’re not sugarcoating it.” She leaned against the news van. “What’s the message?”
“Our message,” another familiar voice chimed in, in her damn near trademarked accent, “is a simple one. We’ll relay it to ya when you’re live.”
“And I don’t get the privilege of knowing what I’m going to say?”
“The resources you get now aren’t much,” the male voice sounded again. “If you’re fired tomorrow, you’ll only bat an eye at the easy access to tech equipment. But in two minutes, you’re going to be the face of this crisis. You’ll be a household name. We plan on making the headlines a lot in the following weeks, and you have direct access to it before it even happens.”
“What does that mean?” She bit her lip. “Like an attack? I won’t be used for that.”
“We don’t need to announce an attack. We just do it. No, we want to give Gotham a chance, first. A fair chance.”
“More of a chance than they deserve,” The voice of Harley Quinn continued. “Still, we’ah nice people. Eliminating mankind ’til the plants are left is an option ‘B’.”
She was very aware that Quinn was using her own, mostly sarcastic words, against her. “Why relay the message through me? Why not Ryder, or anyone else?”
“Because you’re one of tha good ones.”
She was confused by that statement. “What, Jack’s crooked?”
“No. But he’s not here, either. He’s snug in tha studio, waitin’ for tha story ta fall on his lap. You’re willin’ ta’ get the scoop no matter what. The fact that you can see this city’s flaws is a nice bonus.”
“I’m sure,” she sighed. She had accepted a long time ago that her big mouth was going to get her into trouble, but this was a long reach. “How long until I go live?”
“According to your boss – one minute.” The Warlock made a humming sound. “Don’t expect the feed to be cut off. They’ll be experiencing technical difficulties. How many Towers are in this city?”
“Eight,” she replied instinctually. The massive towers were a gift from Roman Sionis to counteract Satellite Television failure, which was, incidentally, also provided by Sionis.
“Good. Just making sure they’ve all been marked on the map.”
She breathed a deep sigh, before kicking off of her van, as she had done many times before, and a part of her knew that it would be her last.
She rested her hand on the free shoulder of the still befuddled cameraman in front of her. “It’s been great working with you, Jerry.”
He looked flustered, but still confused at her smile. “Ms. Vale?”
“I just got an offer I couldn’t refuse. Might work out, might not. But I probably won’t be standing in front of this camera for a while after this. If you want to back out now, then this is your chance.”
“Was that really the Warlock that contacted you?”
She nodded solemnly.
“Are you being forced to do this?”
She shook her head. “Maybe I’d feel better about myself if I was.”
She flushed. “I probably should’ve asked about that.”
He chuckled and adjusted the heavy camera on his shoulder. “Talk business with him after. If not, I’m sure my dad will give you a job in reporting. The Gazette could use a new face.”
“I’m sure they’re doing well enough with Lane’s,” she rolled her eyes. “Still, you don’t need this in your record. Intern or not, the things I might say on camera could lead to a scandal.”
“Then I better get your good side. DVR isn’t kind to the prettiest of women.”
She chuckled and kissed him on the cheek. “Good man. We’re on in fifteen seconds. Don’t get pissed at me when you find yourself deported back to Metropolis.” She backed into her marked spot.
“That’s the best thing about being a Cameraman, Ms. Vale.” He focused the screen and uncovered the lens. “Nobody cares.”
“Please,” she smiled, clicking on her microphone. “Call me Vicki.”
~An Hour Ago~
Edward blinked. “Excuse me?”
Harry pointed to the thin wooden instrument the man leaned on. “That’s a cane. The concept of it has existed for centuries. It’s always been a cane. It’s been reinvented, re-circulated in different shapes, forms, and such, but it’s always meant to act the same – to prop you up. It’s a cane, and it always has been. Mankind did that. Same for the chairs we sit in, the clothes we wear, and the instruments we use. Obviously, the objects can’t do them on their own. They don’t try to be anything different. Humans do it for them. It’s human. They try to change, and adapt, but they will always be… human.”
He pouted. “Lucky guess.”
Harry didn’t expect him to believe the story of a stone eagle testing him on a near daily basis, never allowing him to just pass through to converse with the ‘Claws, so he didn’t bother telling him. “Either way, it was right. Please activate the towers.”
He let out a sigh. “Black Mask won’t like this.”
“No, he won’t. Just make sure to emit the only signal in Gotham when we give you the signal, in an hour. We’ll hide you after.”
The man tipped his bowler hat and raised an eyebrow at Ivy. “Where did you get him?”
She smirked. “Wouldn’t you like to know the answer to that?”
The camera clicked rapidly as she leaned against the building, hidden in the alleyway. She grinned, proud of herself. None of the police, or the small news team, could see her. She figured she shouldn’t push her luck too much, so the bespectacled redhead didn’t have a choice but to do it at a distance.
She sighed to herself. She wouldn’t be having this problem if her father would just give her access to the evidence. Any information about this case in particular was coming in dangerously slow, and the GPD building had been locked down, so she couldn’t access it directly. She was getting fed up of all of it, and considered the possibility of hacking into the database herself. They were using her firewall – something they should have been grateful for.
She sighed, refocusing on her task and clicked away again. When she saw the cameraman remove the lens of his own expensive equipment, she knew when to get out of there, not wanting to be captured on the news, plain as day.
“I don’t think you’re supposed to be here.”
Barbara jumped, and her camera crashed on the cobblestone steps. She turned around. “Oh God, it’s you!”
He waited a second, wondering if she was going to scream. She had a mix between awe and terror as she eyed him slowly. “So you’ve heard of me.”
The teen stumbled backwards. “Crap!” Her hands felt behind her, looking for anything she could use.
Harry took a hold of the camera that she had dropped and inspected it closely. “Seems simple enough,” he muttered to himself, before the lens zoomed out. “There. Good as new.” He tossed it to her.
On instinct, she caught it, confused. “W-what – ?”
“You won’t find much of anything here, but…” he pondered to himself for a moment. “I’ll tell you what. Take a picture of me.”
She was stunned at his words as he shook his hair out, and dusted off the imaginary grime on his black pants. She noted with surprise that he was far younger than she would have guessed – maybe around her age. “Why are you doing this?”
“I haven’t done anything yet,” he looked unconcerned, “but I won’t lie. I will be.”
She frowned. A villain worried about lying? Just who was he? “What are they paying you? To do this for them?”
It took a second for him to realize she was referring to Harley and Ivy. He snorted. “Wouldn’t you like to know? There are far richer people in Gotham that could use my services, but unfortunately for them, they won’t be around much longer. Things need to change, and as you well know, the Justice system can’t stop me.”
“What do you have planned?”
He nodded his head over to the News Reporter, and she, smartly, didn’t turn away to see where he was looking. “You’ll have to wait for the news, like everyone else.” She flinched as he pulled out a small device and spoke into it. “Kill the towers.”
She gave a frightful whimper, not fully understanding the meaning of his words, and he seemed to read her mind. “Not any skyscrapers,” he said tersely. “Radio Towers. I’m not stupid – there is a such thing as too much attention in too little time.”
Barbara eyed him carefully, and took a moment to recognize that he had a brain to go with his… power.
She didn’t like it.
“Considering we’re going live in seconds,” he told her, “I think we should skip the interview, and go straight for the photo shoot. I prefer headshots.”
She glared at him, slowly rising from her seated position, and threw the camera to the ground at his feet.
His eyes only followed the camera as it stopped twisting and rolling on the ground. “Clumsy,” he muttered, and before she could blink, the camera smashed under his boot. She gasped at the sight – the camera itself was not very durable, but it shouldn’t have been possible to crush into pieces with a single stomp.
“I hope your dad isn’t too mad with the equipment failure,” he shrugged, kicking the scraps to the side.
“He’s going to catch you,” she spoke with confidence.
“I’m talking to his daughter, and he has no idea,” he clarified the situation for her. “Don’t take it the wrong way when I say that I’m taking the threat lightly.”
“I wasn’t referring to my dad.”
“At least we’re both not giving him the vote of confidence,” he concluded with a nod, which only seemed to incense her further. “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.” He nodded, and stepped back into the shadows of the alleyway. A bright flash ruined her intense stare, and she blinked away the lights in her eyes. She quickly looked back, and as she suspected, he was gone.
“This is Vicki Vale live, with some new information regarding last night’s events.”Barbara quickly remembered where she was, and ran to the alley wall to avoid getting on the camera. She looked at her broken, smashed-to-bits camera with a grimace – a camera she had ‘borrowed’ from the GPD. It would take a long time for her to fix it, and it looked like quite a few expensive replacement parts were necessary.
As carefully as she could, she scooped up the pieces and poured them into her hoodie pockets. With a last glance around, she pulled her hood over her head and walked out of the alley, her head down, on her way back to the house.
Or, at least she would have.
Until she heard the actual words Miss Vale was saying.
“Alright, Vicki,” he grinned, “We’re on in five, four, three, two – ”
She took a deep, steadying breath. “This is Vicki Vale live, with some new information regarding last night’s events.” On cue, her earpiece buzzed to life, and Poison Ivy relayed to her what she had to relay to Gotham. “Right here, in the intersection of the Jezebel Plaza, two known assailants and one unknown were seen wandering about the stores. Their descriptions are mostly unconfirmed, as this was a rare public sighting for them, but we are the first to capture them on camera.” She could only guess that homemade pictures were actually appearing on their feed on television screens around Gotham. “The Femme Fatale is known as one of the most elusive teams in Gotham. Pamela Isley, known as Poison Ivy, aged twenty-seven, surfaced alone as a legitimate threat three years ago, and is the only reported case in Gotham to be legally claimed as a living, breathing, walking Biological Weapon. Her mental powers of Nature itself has been demonstrated extensively in the past three years, and some buildings are still covered in moss as a reminder of the devastation she could bring to our city, were it not for the good police of Gotham and the caped crusader himself, who this reporter has, maybe too conveniently, named the Batman.”
She didn’t know it at this point, but in every home in Gotham, people gasped as they saw the first ever clear, close shot of the legendary Dark Knight in mid-flight. So much detail was in the picture that some might suspect if he posed for it himself. Still, everyone who had glanced at the story in passing were now glued to the television. “Her vines were known to destroy streets and cars, and the superhuman strength, combined with thorns, and the occasionally mind-controlled police officer, cemented her as one of the most dangerous forces Gotham has ever seen.” She licked her lips. She could say, with all honesty, that she wasn’t over-dramatizing that statement in the slightest.
“Poison Ivy disappeared shortly after she broke out of Blackgate Prison, and resurfaced with a partner just as deadly as herself. Harley Quinn, aged twenty two, appeared out of nowhere, but has proven to herself to be a natural when it comes to crime. Her favorite weapons of choice are her trusty mallet and a bazooka, but she has proven herself to be very adept at any weapon she comes across. She is a very capable fighter, and, in her past life, was very likely an accomplished gymnast before she turned to a life of crime.”
She blinked rapidly. Even she wasn’t able to discern this information from past cases. They were revealing all of these details on purpose. “The two are rarely seen, and this photo, discovered recently, is the only recorded clear shot of them.” She wisely paused, allowing the audience to take in an extended, clear look at the couple. “Their rampage is unmatched by many, and the times that they are out and about, they almost always prove to Gotham the many flaws that this city has, whether they successfully destroy the bridge that leads to Metropolis, or steal valuable items from Gotham’s most protected museums with far too effective smash-and-grab operations.”
As per the instruction, she looked behind her, and pointed to the crime scene, and gave the camera a moment to focus not only on the decimated cars, but the policemen still on lunch break. When Jerry gave her the thumbs up, she continued. “Until now, there has never been a clear message for their acts. They all seemed to make some kind of statement, alluding to their power, or pointing out the flaws in our justice system. Until now. Viewers at home, you may remember that last night, we were only able to get a glimpse provided by the GCTV News Channel 7 Copter. Now, Ladies and gentlemen, new footage has surfaced of the incident. Courtesy of the dashcam of the police car closest to The Femme Fatale and Warlock, and the listening device of one of the officers at the scene, I present to you the unedited footage of what happened last night, complete with sound.”
“You’re offline right now.” Ivy informed her over the bud. She made the motion to Jerry to cut the broadcast and breathed a sigh of relief. “Don’t get too relaxed. The video is playing now, and it’s about three minutes.”
“Just three minutes?”
“It’s amazing how much of an impact someone can make in three minutes.”
She was silent for a moment. “Any chance I could watch it?”
“Oh, you’ll get plenty of time to see the video,” she teased. “It’s playing on every channel Gotham can broadcast right now. All of the Towers have been redirected to that camera’s video stream. You can thank the Riddler for that. You can also thank him for blocking the signal from all of the officers behind you, or they would have gotten the call that evidence had been taken directly from their crime scene. It will be about ten minutes before outside officers can get to you, though. We’ll have you out of there in no time.”
She bit her lip. “So I’ll be a fugitive. I’ll get a prison sentence.”
“Or a Pulitzer.”
“I don’t see that happening anytime soon.”
“I don’t see you getting arrested anytime soon. Just one more part, and then go into the alley behind you, at your four o’ clock. Your friend will be delivered back to Metropolis.”
“Well, you were talking about pay earlier. How would you like an even better arrangement?” She paused for a moment. “Think about it. Now, let me give you the rundown of what to say next….”
The man in green raised his necklace, which showed a blinking question mark pendant. “Apparently, someone’s breaking into my lair.”
Harley sighed exasperatedly. “I’ll handle it.”
“Hold on.” Harry frowned. “Wasn’t expecting him to be out around this time. He should have been at home watching TV.” He looked over to Riddler, and his eyes looked particularly haunting over the green glow from the monitors around him. “I suppose you have a lot of monitors in your lair?”
Edward nodded wordlessly.
“And you can control them remotely?”
He shook his head. “They’re connected to the towers. If he bothered to look at the monitors, he’s seeing the same thing everyone else is seeing.”
Harry smiled. “Good. He won’t be in your lair for long, but I suggest checking for any devices.”
Riddler grimaced. “He wouldn’t dare; not around me.”
“He had to have caught you once, right?”
He turned to Ivy, his face sullen. “I don’t like him.”
She momentarily turned off the connection to Vicki and shrugged. “Not my problem. You want a place in the future, you work with us. Feelings have nothing to do with respect and trust.”
His lips quirked. “I suppose.” He winced when Juliet purred, just feet away from him, under the ministrations of Harley. “Fear helps.”
She winked at her precious cat. “Goddamn right it does.”
“Behave,” she said absentmindedly, before pressing the button on her headset. “Fifteen seconds.”
“As you have just seen, the events that played out last night were, in a way, frightening. He clapped his hands, and as Detective Bullock brilliantly pointed out, it was a powerful earthquake, albeit short. A shockwave cracked the ground below them, and while Ivy and Harley didn’t even flinch, the police cars’ windows shattered and tires were blown, and several officers had to be rushed to the emergency room. Fortunately, there were no casualties.” She paused for dramatic effect. “This time. As you could see, and by the many cameras facing them all at the time, there is no conceivable way to discern how all three of them managed to disappear in front of them. Due to the convenient surge of all lights in the surrounding area, including our chopper a hundred feet above them, their actual disappearing act is still a mystery until we can lighten up the image. However, considering the surrounding officers and SWAT team, the hovering helicopter, and the evidence that they had managed to leave that spot in less than a second and leave no trace of ever being there, other than the destruction they caused, leads me to ask this question.”
She took a breath. “Who in the hell is the Warlock? What does he want? And what will he, and the young women beside him, be willing to do to get it?”
She smiled into the camera. “This is Vicki Vale, with GCTV News Channel Seven. I hope I’ve enlightened you and informed you. If you haven’t gotten the message yet, then I will sufficiently give you that time. For the next twenty-four hours, this broadcast will be played in its entirety. I urge all of the viewers at home to really consider what is at stake here.
“We here at GCTV News believe in second chances. And we are all hoping that Warlock and Femme Fatale are willing to forgive Gotham, for our past mistakes. We can all only pray that he believes in second chances as well. Have a nice afternoon.”
She tapped her foot once, and that was the cue for Jerry to cut the feed. “I think that went well.”
Sirens sounded in the distance. “Maybe too well.”
Jerry looked towards the alleyway that Vicki had told him about, and his eyes widened. “Holy shit.”
She looked around to his eyesight, and gulped as she recognized a large black panther staring at them patiently. After holding eye contact for mere seconds, the large jungle beast turned away and padded slowly back into the alleyway.
Vicki knew that it wanted them to follow, and, oddly enough, felt calm about the thought. She felt herself walking forward, and heard Jerry step in line with her soon after, gently placing the large, heavy camera on the ground.
Her eyes met Harvey’s as she turned her head once more to look at the scene, and he had a smug grin of satisfaction on his face as he winked at her.
She gave a grin of her own, and winked back, before dropping her mic on the ground next to her, never losing her stride.
Vicki Vale didn’t need money – she didn’t even plan to make a career out of journalism, but she was glad to get recognition for her hobby – but she, more than ever, hoped that the Warlock could really perform magic, just so she ask him if she could see the look on Bullock’s face the exact moment he found out what happened during his extended lunch break.
She ripped the bud out of her ear as she stepped into the alleyway. “Wouldn’t want to get shocked again.”
“I’d hope not.” His voice was light, and friendly. “I blew the first bud out. Sorry about that, Jerry.”
Her former cameraman rubbed the back of his neck. “What the hell can I say to that? ‘Don’t do it again?’
He chuckled, and stepped forward, and brilliant green eyes pierced into her shining blue.
She made the connection instantly. “You were that panther.”
“I was.” He held out an obscenely thick roll of bills. “In twenty seconds, this will take you back to your apartment room, in Metropolis.”
He only seemed to consider it for a second, before tipping his invisible hat to Vicki, and gratefully accepted the roll. “Hope they pay this much in Keystone,” he chuckled. “Hope it turns out well, Vicki.”
She smiled fondly and reached out to shake his hand. “If I’m ever looking for another intern…”
He shook his head. “Dad doesn’t like me dabbling too much in the competition. Spend too much time in Gotham, he’ll think I betrayed him.”
She snorted. All the horror stories she had heard about Barry were apparently true. “Good luck, Jerry.”
“Try to avoid prison, Miss Vale.” He quipped before a color beam of light flashed, and all that remained was the mysterious man, patiently waiting. He held out his hand.
“What?” She asked, amused. “No money?”
“Did you think about our offer?”
Wordlessly, she reached out and shook his hand.
“I find it rather intimidating to see how many of you are willing to break the rules to see a different future.”
“A good story is a good story.”
“That would be a massively stupid reason if that were the entire truth.”
“Then I guess we’ve both got stories to tell.”
“Take a deep breath,” he muttered, “and hold tight. I’ve been told the next part isn’t pleasant.”
“The Cat Burglar.”
As they popped away, Vicki couldn’t help but think that she made the right choice.
Or a very, very terrible one. Still, she wasn’t the most daring journalist in Gotham for nothing.
Suck it, Lane.