CHILDREN OF MONSTERS
She had lost control. Not by much, just the merest slip of control, but it was enough to concern her anyway. Then again, considering how deeply the Joker had offended her, she was lucky that her control hadn't slipped any further. The Joker had a very bad habit of getting under people's skins, usually with words, though there was a flensing knife the Joker used on Jason Todd before killing him.
In the gardens of Wayne Manor, under a tree, Rachel sat cross-legged, and meditated. "Azarath Metrion Zinthos," she murmured her mantra softly to herself. She remembered the lessons Zatanna and J'onn taught her. How to relax herself without relaxing her control over her powers. While her father still had some small sway over her, the most dangerous milestone of her life, her sixteenth birthday, had come and gone not long before, and that knowledge helped her.
Even so, she couldn't afford to relax too much. Loosing the demon within to any degree like she had against the Joker wasn't just dangerous for her personally, but for her comrades. And even if she didn't harm them, it might hurt her relationship with them. Seeing her use demonic powers like that tended to alienate those who witnessed them. A few of her fellow Titans had felt that way, certainly.
At least Bruce had helped intervene, and without anything more than a Batarang thrown near her and a few words. For all of his emulation of a dark creature, Bruce tried to be as good a man as he could be, and he wanted others to do the same. Dick Grayson, the first Robin, and Barbara Gordon, the first Batgirl, and now Oracle, were his better success stories. Others were work-in-progresses, save for the late Jason Todd.
It was Tim who had suggested that she go and meditate in the gardens, and while Rachel was not that much of a nature lover, let alone a plant or flower lover, she had to admit, it did help. The scents of the flowers were pleasant enough to help her meditation, to help her resettle herself.
She hadn't realised that Bruce had approached until a twig snapped nearby. Rachel knew that Bruce was stealthy enough to sneak up to or away from Clark Kent, aka the Superman, whose sensory capabilities would normally be able to pick up the heartbeat of a human approaching, so Rachel knew that Bruce was deliberately letting her know of her approach (and only Bruce would be so stealthy: even Tim would be more noisy, and Constantine, well…by comparison to those two, he was the proverbial bull in a china shop). However, he waited until Rachel was ready to speak to him. After a few minutes of relative silence, Rachel eventually unfolded from her lotus sitting position, floating in mid-air, and looked at Bruce, who was dressed in a simple black shirt and trousers. "Yes?"
"I was worried, Rachel. I know how much you detest that part of you, and Tim knows you well enough to know when it has you worried."
"That's not all that worries me," Rachel admitted. "While it is the primary thing, coming a close second is the fact that the Joker is James Potter. And he has magic. It was one thing to hear of it from Constantine and the others, but another entirely to witness it in action. And he hasn't even used his full potential. He was playing with us last night, Bruce. He barely used magic, and he was still playing with us."
"I know. That disturbs me as much as it doubtless does you, Rachel," Bruce said quietly. "I am…infamous for my preparedness within the Justice League. Some call it paranoia, given that I have countermeasures not only to every criminal that we encounter, but even my comrades."
"I'm sure you have something to use against me," Rachel said with a sardonic smirk. All that she got in return was a rueful look to Bruce's eyes. She knew he even had Kryptonite weaponry in case Superman went rogue…and that Kent allowed this. Then again, given the demon heritage in her, she couldn't begrudge Batman for being careful. She only hoped he would use whatever countermeasure he had purely as a last resort. "But what makes the Joker so different?"
"Until now, I have made my preparations regarding the Joker based on the fact that he is still a mundane human, his insanity and endurance notwithstanding. He is hard to prepare for anyway because of his chaotic nature. But when you add magic to the mix…I hear some of the stories Clark has about Mr Mxyzptlk. We're looking at someone with even less qualms than Mxyzptlk, and while this new Joker only has but the smallest fraction of such power, that's enough to give pause for thought. In any case, I'm currently narrowing down which hideout the Joker is hiding in. Oracle's helping. As much as I hate to say it, Ivy has a good effect on Quinn…and if Quinn is killed, then Ivy will kill the Joker."
"Is that a bad thing? Ivy is already a criminal, and the Joker…how many times has he escaped from Arkham? Ivy was right in one regard: throwing the Joker into the Phantom Zone is probably a better idea."
"Maybe. But…I don't kill, and I don't allow murder to happen if I can help it. I may incapacitate my foes, make sure they are incapable of killing, but I do not kill. We need to find Joker before Ivy does. Preferably with Quinn alive and intact. Quinn and Harry are the only human beings Ivy truly loves, though Selina comes close. Rachel…you are not a monster, and not a failure. You are valuable. I appreciate your assistance, your input."
Which was pretty much a compliment, coming from him. After a moment, she asked, "What are your own impressions of Harry Potter?"
Bruce said, "Surprisingly good ones. That response to the Joker…his own father…while I cannot say whether he won't turn out like Ivy, the Joker is another matter. Personally, I agree with your assessment. What little he hides from others is his own pain. He reminds me a little of myself…and of Dick and Jason. Except now he knows his parents are alive…and are criminals. Then again, there are worse criminals than Ivy. Especially now that she has regained her memories. She is different…but that won't mean much with the Joker having kidnapped Quinn." Bruce began moving away. "Be ready to move on a moment's notice, Rachel. I suggest getting as much sleep as you can."
Says the man who gets by on minutes of it, Rachel snarked in the privacy of her head, though she appreciated the sentiment. Bruce was concerned about her. She sat down in the lotus position again, and resumed her meditating.
After some time, she felt a presence. Not a malevolent one, but not one she was used to. After a moment, she realised she knew where the presence was coming from: the Green. Which probably meant either Ivy or Harry. "Show yourself," she said quietly, opening her eyes.
There was a tangle of ivy on a nearby wall, and the vines and leaves were reshaping themselves until they formed a likeness of Harry's face, who looked a little sheepish. "Sorry about that. I didn't want to interrupt you."
"You did anyway," Rachel said. Noticing his embarrassment at doing so, something it took Garfield a long time to show, she sighed. "It's all right. I am meditating merely as a precaution. You saw what I did last night, unleashing that side of me. You see what happens when I lose a little bit of control."
Harry looked pensive. "It's fine. I'm still getting over the fact that my father is the Joker and my mother is Poison Ivy. Compared to that, you getting a bit scary in dealing with the Joker's pretty tame by comparison."
"You're wrong," Rachel said, once more getting to her feet. "My demonic heritage is a constant danger to me and others, even if I am in more control of it than before. Believe me, I had to be even more strict with my emotional control before. The natural magic you bear, plus the powers of a Plant Elemental, they're benign in comparison. I would envy you, but I cannot help the circumstances of my birth, any more than you can. Trigon makes your parents look like kittens." She chuckled softly. "Actually, one of the biggest helps I had was a pen-pal of mine from Magical Britain. She goes to Hogwarts. Perhaps you may have heard of her, though she would be in the year below yours. Her name is Luna Lovegood."
Harry's face frowned. "I know the name Lovegood, but I don't think I've met her."
"You'd know it if you did. She's…strange. But in a good way. I first met her in Jump City when she and her father were abroad. They're journalists, but Magical Britain's equivalent of tabloids, albeit in an entertaining way. She makes me laugh. In a way, she helped me come to terms with myself, though Zatanna and J'onn did so more."
"You'd probably know him as the Martian Manhunter. Harry…why are you here?"
Harry seemed to shrug, at least as much as an effigy of his face picked out in leaves and vines could. "Had a weird dream while I was sleeping. I met a man and a woman, they claimed to be Dream and Death of the Endless. Death said I should talk to you, and, well, Dream pointed me in the right direction."
"You met two of the Endless?" Rachel asked, astonished.
"Yeah. Both with pale skin and black hair? Death's cheerful and has an ankh necklace, while Dream is pretty dour, tall and thin?"
Rachel pursed her lips in thought. That did fit with some descriptions made of the Endless by some people. She remembered Tim Hunter's descriptions, as well as Scott Free, aka 'Mr Miracle', and Constantine describing Dream. J'onn had also met Dream, but had described him differently, as a burning skull(1). "Why did they claim I should talk with you?" she asked.
"I dunno. Death claimed we had things in common. Monsters for fathers, knowing about the dark side of magic…though I guess compared to Trigon, Voldemort pales by comparison. Besides…after last night, I guess we both need someone to talk to. Not that we don't, but…well…"
"I don't generally do talking. I'm not the most sociable of people."
"Sorry to bother you, then."
Rachel sighed. "No. It's fine. To tell the truth, you're better than a few of my team-mates on the Titans, not to mention a couple of the veterans." She thought back to Garfield and Koriand'r, aka Beast Boy and Starfire, although the latter had left the Titans some time ago. "But Death was right. I won't say no to having someone to talk to. But about what?"
Rachel shrugged. "I at least had a decent enough upbringing by my mother. My father does eclipse your parents in the quantity of his evil deeds, though. You never knew your parents thanks to Voldemort and Dumbledore. Then again, given how Ivy acted…I guess we had decent enough mothers, relatively. But the truth is, Harry, my problems eclipse yours, what with my demonic father and my very existence being a threat to the world."
"Then why do you help me with my problems? I mean, yours seem so much bigger."
"The Joker needs to be stopped. And when you're a so-called superhero, it does confer responsibilities. Anyway, your story interested me. I'd heard about you before, but I wanted to know more about the real you. In a way, that Boy Who Lived name is almost like the mask of a superhero…but they don't know Harry Potter, do they?"
"They don't. Not many, anyway. Does anyone know Rachel Roth?" On her look, as she knew she hadn't told him her real name, he said, "Death of the Endless told me your name."
Rachel nodded. "Part of the reason few people truly know me is that I have a tendency to shut people out, not let them in. It comes from my powers and heritage. I have to control my emotions, or else my powers tend to go haywire. I also risk giving my dear father," she spat out those two words, "a way into this world. I once nearly caused the apocalypse that way. I have few friends as a result, partly because many are afraid of my powers, and partly because emotional attachments are a potential risk."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"A lot of people are. Zatanna and J'onn, as I said, helped me gain better control over my powers after the latest near-disaster." Rachel then looked up at Harry's verdant effigy on the vine-covered wall. "What do you think of me?"
As much as a face without any shoulders involved could shrug, Harry's did. "I think you need more hugs. I wish I could give you them. I don't think either of us did, did we?"
Rachel couldn't help but nod in agreement. Again, silence fell between them, before Rachel broke it. "Your mother's on the warpath, isn't she?"
"Yeah. She's calling in favours from everyone she can," Harry said. "I don't know much more, as she told me to get some rest. But the Joker…he's really angered her. I'm more afraid of what will happen to you or Batman and the others if you get in her way than what she'll do to the Joker."
Rachel chuckled softly. "Concern, Harry? We're used to fighting battles against long odds. We can manage. Thank you for talking, though. It has been some time since I had a conversation that was remotely enjoyable. But I would like to be alone for now."
Harry's face nodded. "Okay. I'd like to meet you again, Rachel. See you later." And then, the vines returned to normal, leaving Rachel alone in the garden. She was surprised at how much she missed his presence already.
Even so, the part-demon girl returned to her meditations in the vast garden. Soon, the time for action would be upon them, and she needed to be ready…
CHAPTER 15 ANNOTATIONS:
Okay, so, at long last, the promised bit of Harry/Raven, albeit on a slow burn. They're not going to go straight to snogging.
Anyway, next chapter, Dumbledore comes face to face with the worst of his mistakes.
Review-answering time! Gabriel Herrol: The Joker has only reclaimed his magic relatively recently, but keep in mind that he now has two groups of people out to deal with him: Batman and company, and Poison Ivy and her gathering army. And given that the Death Eaters may make an appearance during a battle while trying to deal with Harry and Ivy, that'll just contribute to a major clusterfuck.
Yorae Rosante: Just one Joker is enough, thank you. I've no idea what that storyline was, and I care less.
DalkonCledwin: Oh shit, I hadn't thought of that. Well, that's going to be something that will be explored in the near future. The Joker gaining mastery of the Elder Wand, huh? Scary shit indeed…
1. Tim Hunter, Constantine and Scott Free have all met Dream, as has the Martian Manhunter, though the latter saw him as a fiery alien skull or head, and addressed him as L'zoril.