Chapter 4 – Well this should be a blast!
Across the newly restored Las Vegas boulevard, rapidly emptied of civilians since the arrival of its latest ill-mannered tourists, a chorus of snarls and clicks and howls echoed maddeningly like the shrieks of the damned, an overwhelming crush of monsters filling the street with horrifying numbers and sheer, ruthless presence.
"Damn," Green Arrow muttered, twirling his goatee with a slightly shaky finger, "I shoulda' brought an extra quiver."
"Yeah, that would have made all the difference here," Kara muttered a bit louder than she intended, resulting in the archer flashing her a slightly pale but indignant look.
"Steady, League," Superman called out reassuringly, floating higher above the ground as some of his more earthbound teammates shifted their feet on the restored asphalt, preparing to launch themselves into battle no matter how terribly the enemy outnumbered them.
And then one flippant voice sounded out across the street.
"Wait, are no more coming? I was hoping for more of a challenge after playing around with you lot."
Kara wasn't alone in shooting Harry a flabbergasted look at those words, and at the utterly relaxed and casual tone behind them even as the wizard stared out across a near sea of monsters filling the street like tuna in a can. In fact, she could swear that several of the monsters even looked taken aback at the trickster's words.
"Well … I guess these will just have to do, then," he graciously decided, a wicked grin spreading across his face.
Evidently, the slavering army of monsters took offense at these words, just as they clearly lacked healthy tools to express this. So they instead resorted to surging towards the wizard, and the rest of the League around him, like a bloodthirsty tidal wave filled with gnashing teeth and bulging eyes.
Unlike their mad rush, Harry stepped forward calmly, gently sweeping his wand around him as he did. From the wand's tip, a wave of roiling fire trailed, rapidly enveloping his entire form like a curtain before the fiery mass rocketed into the air over the monstrous army. As Kara watched, eyes wide and disbelieving, that mass of roaring red fire shifted, taking on the wings and talons of some great, terrible bird of prey that even now stared down at the pitifully small army before it, fiery eyes wide.
"Elder gods, protect us," the tuxedo-clad Zatara whispered, voice drenched in horror as he stared at the construct of living hellfire brought to life overhead.
Of course, someone else apparently had very different feelings about this display.
"Wow, that's hot!"
Kara felt an almost irrepressible urge to face-palm at Harley's delighted exclamation, and at the girl's starry-eyed look of wonder as she stared up at the hellish construct hanging over their heads.
With the roaring shriek of an inferno, the colossal bird struck, swooping down and crashing into the back of the howling bestial army, splashing into pieces like a statue crafted of lava. But as Harry was unveiled in its burning wreckage, twirling his wand with a mixture of artful grace and absolute precision, the fiery shards shifted, taking on the form of snarling predatory beasts that fell upon the surrounding monsters with a savage fury that far outstripped the monsters' own. For all their numbers, the gray-skinned beasts could do nothing more than shriek and flee from the fiery onslaught, scrambling to outpace their fellows even as they collapsed into ash under the claws and fangs and talons of the burning horde.
Of course, seeing as the wizard and his new menagerie were laying into the monsters from behind, that meant his fleeing victims only had one way to go.
Regardless of the colorful superheroes standing in their path.
"HOW WAS THIS HELPFUL?!" Kid Flash yelled out in more than a little panic as the horde of monsters swept forward, now driven by not only bloodlust, but sheer terror at the fiery legion steadily tearing through them.
At that sound, Kara realized she had been simply been floating there, staring almost dazedly at the black-haired wizard as he swept his hands back and forth, dictating the ebb and flow of the burning horde at his command as sweat lightly beaded on his forehead. As she looked more closely, she noticed that his brilliant green eyes practically bored into the fiery creatures, narrowed in a kind of burning intensity Kara had never seen befor–
With a yelp, she flinched back from a bolt of silver light as it streaked past her cheek to bury itself in the chest a gray-skinned monster just a foot away from pouncing on her, only to fall to the ground twitching at her feet as blood pooled from the gaping wound in its chest.
"Come on, blondie! This ain't a spectator sport!" the pink-haired Tonks shouted out, an eager smile on her face as she twirled her wand, sending another silver bolt of light into the slavering horde.
Blushing furiously, Kara deliberately avoided looking anywhere near where Harry was continuing his fiery onslaught and instead launched herself into the fray, dodging a yellow blur in the form of Kid Flash as he literally ran circles around one of the larger gray-skinned beasts, pelting it with a veritable hailstorm of punches in the process. Flying over Harley as well, who was almost manically laying into a cadre of the blade-encrusted human-sized monsters with her oversized mallet, Kara slammed into one of the massive, hulking monsters with all the force of a train.
Eyes wide, she darted back in time to avoid a wild blow from a leg the size of a tree trunk, swooping back in to lay another colossally strong punch on the creature's almost rubbery hide, to similarly underwhelming effect.
Shock absorption, she realized, darting higher into the sky to avoid the monster's retaliatory strike. They came prepared.
With a smirk, she inhaled deeply before expelling a breath as cold as the depths of Kryptonian winter. As she watched, the monster's stone gray skin was soon encased in ice that began cracking before her eyes. With a shout, she landed a third blow on the creature's frozen body. With a tinkling burst, the hideous new ice sculpture shattered under the force of the hit.
"Absorb that," she goaded. Even before the shards all hit the ground, however, a living river of rushing water swept through the frozen remains, only to swing them back around into the horde of monsters, crushing them with the force of the current as the massive shards of ice sliced into them like blades.
"Nice one, Tula!" Kara yelled out, hurling herself at another opponent.
"Not bad yourself!" the red-haired sidekick of Aquaman shouted back, tattoos glowing brilliantly as she used Atlantean magic to combat the raging horde.
"Can we save the compliments for after we defeat the army of monsters, please?!" the well-dressed but clearly nervous-looking Zatanna asked, hands glowing as she caught her breath to continue spellcasting.
"What, you can't multi-task?" Robin asked, flipping and dodging with all the grace of years of experience as the Boy Wonder pelted the horde with sharpened wing-dings and a veritable arsenal of freeze grenades, gas bombs, and virtually every non-lethal contraption one could think of, and quite a few that they wouldn't.
"Not when fighting for my life, I can't!" the comparatively inexperienced Zatanna yelled back, hastily dodging a strike from one of the creatures before belting out a rushed incantation, binding the creature in chains that brought the thrashing creature to the ground hard.
"Don't worry, rookie! Some more practice will take care of that!" Donna Troy informed her, eyes gleaming in pleasure as she practically danced her way through the horde, silver sword flashing in the sun as it sliced and pierced her opponents with all the precision of an artist at work.
"Oh, well, at least I have that to look forward to!" Zatanna yelled back frazzledly, once again entering the fray while chanting with a speed that would make an auctioneer jealous as she hurled spells left and right.
Kara's head whipped up to see her cousin Kal floating overhead. "You and the other sidekicks need to get out of here!" Kara's eyes bulged in outrage at her cousin's words, and even over the clamor of battle, she heard several of the aforenamed "sidekicks" make sounds of indignation or complaint. "This is a lot more serious than we thought it would be, and we can't deal with this while worrying about all of you! Pull back and let us handle it!"
With that, he flew back into the fray without a backwards glance.
"… Well, screw that!" Kid Flash exclaimed, jumping right back into the fight without a moment's hesitation.
After a quick look, most of the others shrugged and agreed with the speedster's blunt but apt sentiment, ignoring Superman's order and continuing the fight, though some, like Zatanna and Tula, seemed somewhat uncertain about doing so, likely out of fear of disobeying the wishes of their father and their king, respectively.
Harley Quinn, of course, hadn't even slowed down in her constant assault on the creatures, and barely even seemed to notice Superman's arrival or the others around her, despite Robin in particular continually shooting her suspicious glances.
Kara, meanwhile, was pissed.
Once again, her perfect, overbearing cousin was trying to hide her away and place her on a shelf like a glass figurine, completely ignoring how she was not a child and she had the exact same powers as him! The entire League just refused to see what she and the others could do, working with them one minute and then casting them aside the next as soon as it became convenient for them.
But they weren't children. And they weren't sidekicks!
They were heroes!
They just needed a chance to prove it!
As Kara let her anger and frustration well up inside her, her eyes smoked and burned, beginning to glow brighter and brighter as she built up her power. Until finally, with a roar, she released all of it.
Monsters howled as her heat vision scorched through them, each beam as thick around as a column as they swept back and forth across the horde, disintegrating everything they touched as members of the League and her fellow "sidekicks" leaped back in alarm.
And then one of the monsters deliberately threw itself in front of her attack.
Shocked at the sight, Kara paused, eyes fixed on the apparently suicidal monster even as her heat vision continued to bore into it.
Only it didn't die.
Instead, the countless spines rising from its back and arms took on a brilliant blue glow that burned brighter and brighter under the strength of her attack. Snarling viciously, monster raised its claws, firing a blinding beam of energy fueled by her own power, which she watched race towards her with widened eyes.
When it struck her, though, she didn't feel searing pain like she expected. Instead, she felt nauseous, like the world was spinning wildly around her and she couldn't tell up from down, all while something wrapped tightly around her and blinded her eyes.
Just as she started wildly tearing at whatever was trying to imprison her, however, a voice sounded in her ear.
"You know, call me crazy, but one would almost think you were upset," Harry's voice teased.
With that, she stopped clawing at what she now realized were arms wrapped around her middle, and with the end of her thrashing, the nearly weightless silver cloak finally slid free of her face.
Once again blushing in embarrassment, Kara disentangled herself from the rest of his cloak and righted herself in the air.
"I had that totally under control," she informed him, straightening her cape as she just so happened to avoid eye contact with the amused-looking trickster.
Raising an eyebrow, Harry leaned to the side and looked over her shoulder at her previous attacker. "Clearly," he remarked, a chuckle in his voice.
Turning around, Kara realized it had gone eerily quiet since Harry had apparently pulled her out of the way of that monster's attack, and as she turned astonished eyes on what moments ago was a pitched battle, she realized why.
"What in Rao's name is this?" Kara breathed, staring slack-jawed at the army of monsters and Leaguers standing motionless in the street like so many statues.
"Froze time," Harry answered simply, before pausing. "Well, sidestepped time would actually be more accurate."
Speechless, Kara floated up and studied the frozen beam of sapphire energy that the spine-riddled energy-absorbing monster had fired at her, all the way up to where it suddenly terminated in mid-air, surrounded by what looked like the remains of an explosion.
Turning back to Harry, she noticed him rubbing his back with a slight grimace, and she saw that a number of the runes carved across his armor had lit up with the same sapphire glow as the blast.
He hadn't simply pulled her out of the way of the hit after all. He had taken it for her.
"It's fine," he assured her as guilt flooded through her. "Believe me, I've gotten worse from one of Sirius' less-thought-out pranks."
At those words, his eyes dropped to the army below them. Following his gaze, she saw the motionless form of his godfather fighting next to Black Canary and Red Tornado. And from the looks of things, spellcasting wasn't the only thing on the wizard's mind, as the toothy grin on his face and the way he was looking at Canary made it clear he had been flirting heavily with the fishnet-wearing blonde, just as her paused eye-roll showed that he wasn't getting very far.
And maybe it was her imagination, but even Red Tornado seemed exasperated with the man, which was rather impressive given the android's completely emotionless face and presumed inability to feel exasperation in the first place.
"How are you doing this?" Kara asked in wonder, flying over to her floating cousin and waving a hand back in forth in front of his face before making several faces of her own at the bastard. "And if you say 'magic', I will hurt you," she added, looking over her shoulder to spot a crestfallen look on the wizard's face.
"Party pooper," he complained, floating over to her. "But if you want a more boring answer," he continued with a pout, "then I'm doing it with these."
As he pointed at his boots, she looked down and noticed that the boots in question were giving off a golden light from dozens of brightly glowing runes.
"In my world, we have certain devices for controlling time," he explained. "They were called time-turners, and they harnessed the actual Sands of Time to let a person travel hours into the past. And, for some inexplicable reason, they were sometimes loaned out to schoolchildren who wanted to take more classes than was physically possible, because obviously, handing a time machine over to a nerdy teenager is the only logical solution there."
Kara's eyebrows nearly disappeared into her hair.
"And, um … well, I don't want to bore you with the details, but sometimes, even the most diligent of students can lose things, and … well, other people might find those things and … forget to give them back," Harry answered evasively.
"You mean you stole it?" Kara asked flatly, even as the corners of her lips quirked up in amusement.
"'Indefinitely borrowed' would also be an acceptable interpretation," he replied with a cheeky grin.
She rolled her eyes and chuckled. "And so that's what these are? One of those … time-turners?" she asked, looking at the glowing boots.
"Oh, no. I made these myself," he answered proudly. "After a series of exceedingly careful and controlled experiments with a forcibly shared time-turner, of course."
She gave him a disbelieving look. "Really? You? 'Careful and controlled experiments'?"
Harry gained a reflective look.
Four years ago
"… What would happen if someone apparated while using a time-turner?"
"Yep! Totally careful and controlled!" he answered her brightly.
Kara couldn't help but laugh at the clear sound of a lie in his voice.
"Oh, that's where your smile went," he noted happily. "That's a relief. When I saw how hard you were glaring at Capes Ahoy here, I was worried it would take us forever to find that thing again."
She blinked at Harry as he floated in front of her perfect cousin and started gently drawing in the air with his wand. "You saw that, huh?" she asked him, watching in confusion and amusement as he drew what looked like a bushy mustache and large round glasses and maneuvered the marker-like drawings until they were an inch away from Kal's face.
"You can't actually affect anything while time is frozen like this," he explained upon seeing her quizzical look at what he was doing. "You can only set things up to affect people when time starts moving again."
Looking down, Kara reached out and grabbed her cousin's frozen cape, only to find the thin stretch of cloth more unyielding than stone, despite her Kryptonian strength.
"And yeah, I saw it," he continued. "Kinda hard to miss when seconds later, you start vaporizing everything in sight."
Looking back at the monstrous army, she winced slightly upon seeing the vast stretches of ash left behind by her attack, almost rivaling Harry's own on the other side of the army. "I guess I lost control for a minute there, didn't I?" she asked sheepishly.
"Only if you didn't actually mean to fry some monsters," Harry's bodiless voice replied. "And if you didn't, then I think we have a much bigger problem here."
After looking around, she finally spotted the wizard near the ground, apparently giving Batman the same treatment he had given Superman.
Snorting, she floated down and joined him.
"So, tell me, what did ol' Big Blue do this time?" he asked, putting the finishing touches on his airborne drawing of a brilliant pink bow, set to stick to Batman's cowl when the man's frozen leap resumed.
She stared at him. "Did you freeze one of the primordial forces of the world just to hear about my snit with my cousin?" she asked in amusement and exasperation.
"Figured you'd want to vent," he answered shamelessly, wrapping up his Batman drawings with a set of cat whiskers, making the fearsome Dark Knight look rather like Hello Kitty. "Plus, I needed a minute to recharge anyway. Wrangling fiendfyre is seriously mentally draining," he added. "Well … if you're not okay with it going on rampage and killing everyone, at least."
"… Right," Kara replied, not even wanting to ask. After a moment, though, she simply sighed. "Honestly, it's nothing major. Or it's nothing new, anyway."
"Ah, I see now. Everything's becoming so clear!" he replied flippantly, floating over and beginning to work on Sirius with a smile on his face.
She snorted. "It's pretty much the same thing he was doing when he got here in the first place. Treating me like a kid, trying to keep me out of harm's way whether I want to be or not, refusing to let me do anything with my power when all I want to do is help people … it's the same old thing. He just refuses to see me as anything other than a kid, or that it's my responsibility how I use my powers, not his, and he just can't see that it's my right to use them to be a hero and to help make this world a better place! And it's not just him, either, or even just me! All the League treats us … 'sidekicks'," she practically spat the word, "like children running around on a battlefield, only to pat us on the head and insist that of course they really see us as their 'partners'. But they only say that when all we're dealing with is picking up trash or finding stray dogs, and whenever it's time for anything more serious, then its back to being the sidekick underlings who should stay in their playpens with all the rest of the children, and it's such freaking bullshit!"
As that final word rang out across the frozen square, the panting blonde finally realized she'd been yelling almost that whole time, and that her fist was clenched so tightly that her fingernails were digging into her palm.
Meanwhile, Harry floated across from her, nodding and gently tapping his wand against his chin. "I see … and how does that make you feel?" he asked, an airy tone to his voice like a cliché therapist.
For a long moment, she simply stared at him. But once again, despite the wave of emotions crashing through her, he was able to bring all that to a halt and get her to break out into laughter almost without effort.
She was really starting to like that about him.
As Harry grinned at the laughing blonde, he gained a fond look on his face himself. "You know, I'm starting to get why I married you last night," he said out of the blue.
With that, Kara's laughter stopped cold and a burning blush made its way across her speechless face, much to her humiliation.
"I mean, listening to you just now … it was like looking at a picture of myself from a few years back," he continued, putting a final flair on a "Call me Nymphadora!" sign on the pink-haired witch's back. "When I was younger, I … well, I went through a bit of an angsty phase for a while," he admitted, rubbing his neck somewhat sheepishly. "My family is great and all, and they did what they could to shield me from it, but the entire magical world we lived in practically … worshiped me!"
The clear sound of disgust in his voice made it clear what he thought about that.
"Even before I could walk, the whole bloody lot of them practically tried to bury me alive with expectations, demanding that I be their savior, their hero, the greatest wizard the world had ever known, regardless of what I actually wanted." He sighed. "And it really got to me for a while, I won't lie." His mouth quirked in a half-smile. "But then I had a revelation."
Curious, Kara looked at him promptingly.
"I didn't care," he answered, slowly and simply. "They could demand whatever they wanted. I didn't give a shit. It didn't matter if they wanted me to be a legend … or a kid sitting on the sidelines." He gave her a look at that. "All that mattered was what I wanted. They weren't the ones who had to live my life. They weren't the ones who had to look in the mirror every single day and see my face staring back. And they weren't the ones who had to wonder if they even recognized who that person in the mirror was any longer. So in the end, all their demands and complaints didn't really mean shit. I had to make my own damn choices, for better and for worse, and I had to live with the consequences, good and bad."
As he spoke, he gently floated up to her level until they were hovering right across from each other. "Maybe your cousin wants you to be a normal teenage girl, sitting safe on the ground well away from danger. Hell, maybe your entire League wants you and all the other young heroes to do the same thing," he suggested. "But in the end, all that matters is what you want, cliché though that may sound. If your cousin or anyone else is disappointed with what you choose to do, then that'll be very sad. But it'll be outright tragic if you are disappointed with what you choose to do. 'Cause in the end, only you have to deal with the joys and burdens of being Kara, and no one else." He reached out and gently brushed a golden strand of hair from her face. "Though, for what little it's worth … I think you're pretty damn amazing." His eyes glittered with amusement. "Or, dare I say … super."
As he floated there, gently chortling at his lame pun, Kara simply stared at him, unreadable emotion welling in her crystal blue eyes.
After a moment's silence, Harry started to look concerned, but as he opened his mouth to ask her what was wrong, she simply reached out and grabbed his collar before pulling him to her and kissing him.
When they finally broke free, Harry had a slightly dazed look on his face, but the heated flush to his cheeks, and the look in his eyes, spoke of something far more than embarrassment.
Kara was tempted to kiss him again upon seeing it.
"You know," she said, running her fingers through his silky black hair, "I'm starting to get why I married you last night too."
For several moments, Harry simply blinked at her, but soon, a slow smile spread across his face. As he stared deeply into her blue eyes, his arms tightened around her waist, pulling her even tighter against him. However, just as they started to close the rest of the distance between them, they were brought up short by curls of smoke rising between their faces.
"Oh, damn it!" Harry complained, reluctantly disentangling himself from Kara to stare down at his boots. And sure enough, the golden-glowing runes were emitting smoke. "Brilliant bloody timing," he groused sourly as he glared at the stupid hunks of dragonhide.
"That can't be good," Kara remarked, something of a pout on her delicate features at their ruined moment.
"Sidestepping time like we're doing is intense stuff," he explained, still glaring at the pieces of junk. "The current of time is constantly trying to drag us back into it. The spell can only hold that at bay for so long, especially for two of us at once."
"So time's about to start up again," Kara interpreted, looking down at the still-frozen monster army and reading herself to fight.
"Yep. Back to the ol' salt mines," Harry groused, drawing his wand. After a moment, however, he looked back at Kara.
He didn't even have to ask. "I'm going to fight. Today, and tomorrow, and whenever and wherever I need to, whether Kal likes it or not," she declared. "I'm a hero. Period. And if he doesn't like that … well, that'll be very sad." Her smile grew wicked. "For him."
He smiled widely at that. "Well, then, Supergirl, I could use your help with something."
Her grin was as bright as his. "What can I do for you … uh, Harry?" she replied, stumbling at his lack of a codename, but for some reason feeling a warm burst of confidence from him calling her by her own.
"I have a plan for how to deal with the monsters," he explained, which seemed pretty damn comforting, given that the massive horde of monsters barely seemed to have diminished even with Harry's and Kara's own attacks, or the League's defenses.
Whoever sent these things was not messing around.
"I need to get the monsters past this point," he replied, turning and waving his wand to draw an ephemeral line on the side of a building, which was just about level with where the frozen line of Leaguers was engaging with the monsters. "But I also need them stopped before crossing this point." He flew over and drew another line across the street.
Several meters behind where the League was holding the monsters back.
"However, getting the monsters between these two lines is one thing," he explained, "but what's absolutely crucial here is that no one on our side is still in that zone when I make my move." He paused. "Or … well, is there anyone you hold moderately strong negative feelings toward?" he asked, just the embodiment of innocence, even as he subtly glanced over at her floating cousin.
She gave him a flat but not unamused look.
"That's okay. You don't have to answer," he said, tapping the side of his nose and winking at her conspiratorily. "But just make sure that no one you like … or want to see again … is in that zone when I give the signal."
Kara studied the empty stretch of road in question carefully before turning back to the wizard she had married. "You can count on me, Harry," she told him resolutely.
He smiled warmly. "I know I can, Supergirl."
Once again, she felt a strange burst of pride at hearing him say that name.
Before any more words could be shared, however, the now heavily smoking golden runes running up and down Harry's boots flared with light, and finally failed. With that, Kara felt like she was pulled through an overtight rubber tube and spun around in a giant centrifuge as she and Harry flared with golden light, and the world started up around them again.
Still reeling from the sensation of time restarting, she was bombarded with an almost physical wave of sound as the clamor of battle reached her again.
But she had more important things to worry about than a bit of nausea or some ringing in her ears.
She had a job to do.
"Hey guys!" she called out as she returned to her fellow "sidekicks".
As one, they turned to the resolve-filled Supergirl.
That's my girl, Harry thought proudly as he watched Kara take immediate command of the young heroes, sharing their bare-bones plan after buying them a minute to breathe by crafting a sparkling wall of ice with her freeze breath. Even Harley and Nym joined the huddle, the hammer-wielding jester appearing joyfully indifferent to the many suspicious or nearly hostile gazes sent her way by the young heroes.
He had no idea what Kara might be telling them, or what they might try to do to get the monsters in the target zone while getting all of their own people out, but he didn't need to. He wasn't lying to Kara when he told her just how much she reminded him of himself. He had no doubt whatsoever that she'd manage to pull this off, even if she had to drag the others by their ears to help her do it.
That said, it still couldn't hurt to lend a hand. And so, standing in the middle of the surging tide of monsters, he sent a mental command to one of the cadre of imperiused beasts surrounding him, with the creature in question obediently breaking off from the pitched battle it and its fellows had been fighting with their confused brethren. Like Ron Weasley charging towards a dinner table, the hulking monster absolutely plowed through everything in its path as it barreled towards its target, only to stop as it reached the now thoroughly alarmed teens.
Before they could attack, the beast slowly knelt and gently lowered its massive, gray-skinned head, blinking its large, brilliantly green enchanted eyes in front of a very special someone.
To Harry's surprise and deep-seated amusement, it seemed to take her no time whatsoever to put two and two together, as evidenced by the joy-filled squeal that cut through the clamor of battle like a steam whistle. And so Harley Quinn delightedly and fearlessly scampered up the massive tusks jutting out from the creature's face before planting herself firmly astride the beast's neck, ready to ride her enormous new mount into battle.
The look on the surrounding teens' faces was absolutely priceless. Though Nym, of course, simply cast a weary yet amused glance his way, while Kara shot him a look of astonishment and pure horror as she eyed the now thoroughly battle-ready Harley Quinn.
He simply grinned and saluted them both before switching places with another monster, who became a very quick and unlamented casualty of his squad of imperiused beasts.
The next several seconds were marked by a cavalcade of explosions erupting randomly and violently throughout the ravaging horde as he flickered throughout the army, switching places with human-sized beasts and disappearing before the others could more than simply register he was there, though not before leaving a present behind in the form of a runic trap, laid down using his boots and then immediately triggered by the next monster to take his place as he continued his devastating hit-and-run tactic throughout the entire back quadrant of the army, adding a bit more oomph to the army's desire to surge through the League's line and into the target zone.
It wasn't long before his brief arrivals were punctuated by howls of terror from the surrounding beasts, who had clearly figured out what was coming when he appeared even before they were shredded apart by the fiery blasts of his traps.
So you can feel fear, he noted as he continued terrorizing the mutant army, which dutifully began surging even more desperately against the League's backpedaling line as they fled from him like beasts from wildfire.
However, it wasn't long before his boots began dangerously overheating from the amount of energy he was funneling through them to fuel his rapid-fire explosive traps, especially coming off the time-stepping strain he had just put them through.
Which meant that new tactics were called for.
He may have lacked the fangs the monsters had, but in that moment, his smile was more vicious than anything they could manage.
As Kara sent yet another monster bowling through its comrades, she honestly didn't know which was more unnerving: Harley's utterly maniacal cackle as her new and hopefully still mind-controlled war-mount smashed its way through its fellows like pinatas, or the reign of terror shredding its way through the army's rear flank as her wizard continued his solo bombardment.
But the sudden silence as he stopped was definitely worse.
"Hey Supergirl!" Kid Flash called out, darting out of the way of one of the blade-encrusted monsters. "How long do we need to keep doing this?!"
Blasting one of the energy-absorbers with freeze breath, shattering both its hopes and its body at the same time, she paused to eye the markers for their target zone. "Just a bit longer!" she called out in answer, noting how the majority of the obscenely large monster army was still outside the zone, while all the heroes were still smack in the middle.
"I don't suppose you'll tell us now what comes next after getting them all here, will you?" Zatanna asked, leaning on her knees and panting as she caught her breath from her casting while Aquagirl covered her.
"Of course not! That would ruin the surprise!" Kara answered evasively, ducking a yelping creature as it was sent flying by a battle-happy Wonder Girl.
However, the young amazon's happiness was clearly still tempered by their overall plan, given her periodic grimaces as she held back punches or ducked too slowly from counterattacks.
You see, Kara's plan for letting the monster army advance to where they needed it was quite simple:
They needed to lose.
Oh, not all at once, and not blatantly, but taking a bit too long to take down a monster here and there, or letting a beast or two stagger away from finishing blows that weren't quite strong enough, and their whole defensive line ended up progressively losing ground, inch by inch.
The Leaguers didn't know about their plan, of course—there wasn't any point in even trying to get their glorified babysitters to go along with it—but even if they didn't want her and the others on the battlefield, they still had no choice but to give ground in order to keep ranks with the young heroes, unless they wanted monsters to break through and start surrounding them all.
Though, admittedly, it didn't really seem like their retreating line could solely be blamed on their own self-sabotage. The monstrous horde was unbelievably large, true, but above all, what made it so horrifically capable was how organized it was. The army seemed to move as one, shifting about to pair the hulking, shock-absorbing beasts against physical combatants like Superman, while placing the energy-absorbing creatures up against the artillery-minded Leaguers like Captain Atom, who then had to worry about his own attacks being absorbed by his enemies and then let loose against his own teammates, all while the sheer force of numbers kept the rest of the team-members pinned in place long enough for the lightning-quick walking blade-factories like Kid Flash was facing to get disturbingly close to taking them down.
This wasn't just a mindless mutant army raised up to wreak some havoc by some no-name villain of the week. This was a targeted strike against the Justice League itself, and frankly, it seemed like a terrifyingly capable one.
But then she learned what terror truly was.
Out of nowhere, a horrible noise rocked the battlefield, as if monstrous fingernails were being dragged against the world's largest blackboard, only to halt with a momentous boom like a meteor striking the earth.
Unscrewing her eyes, she looked up to see that like herself, the heroes and even most of the monsters were covering their ears to block out that hideous sound.
But beyond the monstrous army, ever the exception, Harry floated, face unreadable, and in that moment, somehow terribly unknowable. And as his silver cloak rippled behind him even in the still air, he grabbed his strange golden ring, and turned its angular black stone once more.
Once again, that horrible sound returned, as if a building-sized megaphone was fixed on the glistening black stone as it turned and ground in its setting, and settled with a momentous boom.
This time, though, Kara was struck with far more than mere sound. For some reason, she felt an ice-cold shiver creep up and down her spine as that dreadful toll echoed out across the still battlefield.
And then Harry turned the Stone one last time.
Kara's knees nearly buckled from the weight of that terrible sound, and the cold grip of dread that surrounded her, but she still stared almost helplessly as Harry reached out with his ring-bearing hand, and clenched it. Her breath felt frozen in her lungs as she watched that arm tremble, as if fighting to lift some unknowable weight as his burning green eyes glittered.
And then, without a sound, whatever he was struggling against gave way, and that arm finally rose.
And the dead rose with it.
Glittering silver fog bled through the ground all around him, rising and thickening as shapes started to appear, gaining the blades and claws and fangs of all the monsters he had killed. Or rather, some of them. The rest of the fog flowed like something alive as currents of the mist entered the bodies they had worn in life, which immediately started to rise jerkily to their feet, shining masses of solid-seeming gray smoke filling their wounds and taking the place of missing limbs where needed. For those whose bodies were too thoroughly destroyed, their specters stood silent at Harry's feet.
Silence held the battlefield tight in its grip as monster and hero alike stared at the wizard surrounded by his army of the dead, his fluttering silver cloak making parts of his body seem to disappear as he hung there, motionless.
He said nothing as he raised his pale knotted wand and pointed it at the rest of the living monsters.
As one, his thralls surged towards their living fellows, while the bodiless spirits raced ahead and slammed into several of the backpedalling creatures, disappearing as their victims fell to the ground twitching. Moments later, the possessed creatures rose, only to join the rest of the undead army tearing through the living with a fearless, silent savagery.
A fearlessness their victims clearly did not share.
"Are you kidding me?! We're dealing with freaking necromancy now?! Oh, no no no no no, that's good! That's fine! That's totally fine! That never goes badly or gets everybody killed or makes the wizard go crazy because they're raising the freaking dead and I am so not okay with this! Is anyone else okay with this?! Because I am not okay with this!"
This was evidently a trait missing from the heroes as well, if the panicked rantings of Zatanna were any indication.
Kara swallowed heavily as she processed the display of necromancy, a power she had seen quite often, though only in the hands of villainous madmen and literal devil-worshipping sorcerers. And as she stared at Harry, still floating there calmly, she found herself struggling to reconcile the fun-loving, surprisingly compassionate trickster she had come to know with … this.
And so she simply didn't try. Instead, she bullheadedly shoved aside her near primal terror at the sight of the zombie horde, and her alarm at it having been raised by someone she was starting to … by a friend. And instead, she focused on dealing with the simple and unconfusing monsters right in front of her.
However, regardless of how one might feel about the wizard's method, there was no denying that it was producing results. Between the panicked horde of monsters fleeing from their undead brethren and the unnerved Justice League suffering just a slight amount of distraction from the raising of said undead, the defensive line swiftly lost ground, bringing the horde closer and closer to their target zone.
They just needed one final push.
This time, as Harry disappeared from sight, this wasn't followed by a barrage of explosions erupting randomly throughout the army. Instead, it was followed by attacks that were far less ground-shaking, and infinitely more terrifying to his enemies.
With one crack, he appeared in the midst of the horde, silently waving his wand at the hulking beasts surrounding him. As one, those beasts shook their heads and staggered, before looking up with an emerald sheen to their eyes. As Harry disappeared, his new unwilling allies turned on their unprepared fellows, attacking them with a savagery matched only by the undead horde behind them.
Another time, he appeared with a brilliant flourish of his wand as a roaring whip made of red-gold fire trailed behind it, slicing effortlessly through every creature around him before he disappeared, leaving a wide, near perfect circle of carnage.
Yet another crack was followed by brilliant flashes of green light, and the echoing thump of numerous heavy bodies dropping instantly to the ground all around before he moved on.
And with every slain creature, his army grew, glittering silver mist continuing to bleed through the ground to fill the new empty vessels he left strewn about in his wake, which rose to continue terrorizing the monstrous army just as the others did.
And so the last of the surviving army made it past the first mark.
"Alright, they're in the target area, Kara!" Robin yelled, feeling in way over his head as he flipped and fought against an army almost too monstrous and terrified to even care. "I hope you have something really great in mind for what to do with them next, cause I really don't want to see these things all get turned into zombies! That never seems to end well, and a rampaging, brain-hungering zombie-monster horde is really something I can do without in my list of life experiences!"
Given the emphatic nods coming from all the rest of their little impromptu team, he was clearly not alone in these sentiments.
"Just make sure everyone's ready to go!" she told him. "We make our move when we get the signal!"
"Signal … you mean this is zombie-boy's plan?!" Zatanna yelped, having rather quickly picked up on a very specific detail Kara had neglected to share with the others.
"I think he prefers 'Harry', actually," Kara replied, hoping they'd still be willing to go along with it. She'd been nervous enough about that just from how they first met Harry by him whooping the Justice League's ass. Now that he was outright raising the dead …
"… Gods, I hope you know what you're doing, Kara," Aquagirl finally spoke up, clearly uneasy, but willing to trust Kara, if not Harry himself.
"I do," Kara answered far more certainly than she felt, noting in relief that the others, while still looking unsure, seemed willing to go along with her anyway.
For now, at least.
"And what is this signal that our dark overlord in the making is going to give us?" Donna asked sardonically.
Kara paused, just realizing they had never clarified that point. "Well … something magical, probabl–"
She blinked at the word bluntly shouted out across the battlefield by Harry.
"Alright, I guess that's it! Let's go, people, move it!" she yelled, not waiting to see if they complied.
After all, she was already starting to catch the faintest hint of a strange hum with her enhanced hearing, so they clearly didn't have time to screw around. These monsters wouldn't be staying in the target zone for long, and Harry obviously wasn't wasting time to see if they would.
"Kara, what's going on?!" Kal demanded, flying in front of her as he clearly noted the strangeness of what was happening, as well as Harry's rather non-subtle signal. "All of you were supposed to beOOOF!"
Kara didn't bother listening to him, simply tackling him in mid-air and carrying him with her as she fled the battlefield. And as she looked back, she saw that her friends were doing the same thing, just as they planned.
Kid Flash managed to grab the end of Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth as she threw it at one of the monsters, using his extreme momentum and Wonder Woman's complete and utter surprise to swing her off her feet and out of the target zone with her whip.
As he did, similar scenes took place almost simultaneously across the battlefield, with the young heroes turning on their bewildered elders and bustling them all off the battlefield before they could even react to this bizarre turn of events. Tula used her powers over water in this endeavor, sweeping Aquaman, Martian Manhunter, and the Flash up in a single attack from behind before—respectfully, of course—flinging them back across the line Harry had drawn across the pavement. Donna Troy used a tactic much like Kara's, simply flying into and grabbing the yelping Captain Marvel and the shouting Captain Atom before gracelessly hurling both Captains to safety. Robin managed to grab ahold of the airborne Hawkgirl and fired his grappling gun at the street behind them, yanking them both to safety despite her rather vocal confusion and heated cursing. Zatanna helped as well, casting a spell to cause Red Tornado to be jerked back behind the safety line like he was attached to a bungee, though the loud clanging and shouting that followed revealed that the rookie mage may have forgotten to cushion his landing.
To be honest, that poor android likely wasn't going to be the biggest fan of magic after all he had been through today.
Harley Quinn, meanwhile, urged her colossal mount towards Black Canary, with her new pet scooping up the decidedly alarmed heroine from behind with one of its car-sized claws before swiftly carrying her past the line.
Even Harry's wizarding family got involved, with Tonks flinging two carefully prepared stones at Green Lantern and Green Arrow, who then disappeared with a nauseating-looking swirl, while Harry's somewhat grungy-looking godfather Sirius, who Tonks must have clued in, tackled the far more dapper wizard Zatara before they both disappeared with a loud crack, leaving nothing but a lonely top-hat in their wake.
With that, the sub-audible hum Kara had been hearing picked up in intensity, nearly making her teeth vibrate in her skull as she looked out across the teeming battlefield to see Harry gesturing his wand at the ground with an expression of absolute focus. As he did, the ground beneath the monsters' feet suddenly flared with burning light as hundreds upon hundreds of identical overlapping runic circles were revealed.
And as every single one of them crackled with power, Kara's eyes widened as she understood.
When Harry had fought the League, and spent several minutes keeping away from the Flash by rapidly switching and teleporting all over the battlefield, he hadn't just been fleeing from the speedster; he'd been quietly laying down all these traps at the same time, just in case.
And now, he was putting them all to use.
As the hum reached its apex, every single one of the runes activated, each one belting out a coruscating column of emerald light that seared through the monsters and pierced the skies, all of them combined creating a thundering force that made even Kara stagger as the massive wall of light burned with light like the sun itself.
Just moments later, it ended, the earth-shattering crackle abruptly replaced with the sound of steam as the liquid-hot asphalt bubbled and smoked for yards around the site, ending mere inches before the ephemeral line that she and the others huddled behind.
Of the monstrous horde, there was no sign.
Not even ash.
As everyone around her muttered and blinked spots out of their eyes, Kara stared through the rising cloud of steam as Harry floated through it, landing gently on top of that ephemeral line, which vanished with a lazy flick of his wand.
"Well … that worked out rather well, wouldn't you say?" Harry asked, a relaxed grin on his face as he brushed sweat-soaked hair out of his eyes. Turning, he cast a proud, beaming grin at Kara in particular.
Kara couldn't help but find herself slowly smiling under that look of silent praise.
However, a red-black blur shattered the silence of the moment as it tackled Harry with a high-pitched squeal.
"Harry, didja' see us out there?! That was awesome! Who knew all this heroing junk could be so fun!" the hyperactive girl yelled excitedly, staring up at Harry with brightly sparkling eyes.
Harry's face settled into a soft, fond smile as he wrapped his arms around her. "I did see you out there, Harl. And you were incredible." He lifted his gaze towards the entire group of young heroes. "All of you were," he told them, his eyes looking deep into each of their own before settling on Kara's in particular. "We couldn't have done this without you," he told her and all of them before his gaze lowered back to Harley's. "Thank you," he said sincerely, raising a hand and cupping her cheek as his thumb gently brushed aside a piece of dirt from beneath her large, glistening blue eyes.
Pulling his head down, Harley met his lips with a fierce, joyful kiss as her left leg lifted daintily in the air behind her.
"Oooooohhhh," Green Arrow slowly drawled in belated realization as he and the rest of the Justice League took in the affectionate display. "That … explains a lot," he remarked, everything clicking as he finally understood why this strange new wizard had been so fierce in defending Harley Quinn, as well as why Gotham's infamous "Clown Princess of Crime" had been insisting she was turning over a new leaf.
"You're just picking up on this now?" Black Canary asked him with a raised eyebrow and an amused smirk. "So much for having 'the sharpest eyes in the League'," she goaded.
"Rude," he complained petulantly.
Meanwhile, those of a more adult persuasion were moving slowly and somewhat warily towards the now publicly revealed couple while the nearby young heroes stared in open astonishment at the … well, craziness of someone kissing Harley freaking Quinn of all people.
As for Kara, her feelings veered more towards deep emotional confusion as she experienced a swirling mix of jealousy, happiness, longing, and frustrated uncertainty as she fingered the new golden ring on her finger and shifted between watching the kissing couple and the crowd of people they were freely kissing in front of, which happened to include her cousin, Kal, whom she had not yet told about the current … situation between her, the wizard, and the jester currently trying to suck his damn face off.
Closing her eyes, she deliberately forced the burgeoning red glow from her eyes and took a deep, calming breath.
Floating closer, Superman coughed deliberately to interrupt the affectionate couple.
Prying her lips off his, Harley turned towards the interruption with a surprisingly venomous glare, only to pause and stare incredulously before breaking out in a wild cackle.
"… What?" Superman asked, disconcerted at the girl's response, who even now was burying her face in the wizard's chest to try and muffle her laughter, to little success. "… Do I have something on my face?" the Kryptonian asked uncertainly.
To his unease, this only made the jester laugh harder until the grinning wizard was having to hold her up because her legs were becoming so weak.
"Nah, it's nothing," Harry told the man with a patently untrustworthy grin. "Though, I must say, the mustache is a surprisingly good look for you. The glasses, however, not so much."
Superman simply stared at the wizard in wordless confusion before Harry conjured a floating mirror in front of the superhero.
As he stared flabbergasted at the drawings he now saw covering his face, the young heroes finally got over their own shock at the sight and began laughing uproariously.
Meanwhile, Superman felt a slight burn creep across his cheeks as he took in his forced makeover.
As Harley slowly regained control of herself and looked back at Superman, though, she started giving the man a more curious look.
"Ya' know," she said slowly as she squinted at the man, "I can't put my finger on it, but somethin' about 'im just looks awful familia' now …"
"No it doesn't," Superman hastily and flusterdly countered, the drawing of glasses on his face coming disturbingly close to outing his civilian identity in front of everyone.
Harry, however, simply turned to his nearby pink-haired cousin with a snicker, having far more important matters to discuss. "So what do you say, Nym? Try giving that a measly score of six," he challenged, nodding back towards the scarred and melted former battlefield.
She gave it a considering look. "Maybe a 6.5," she graciously offered. "But only 'cause I love you."
He gave her a flat look. "You're the soul of generosity," he informed her as he waved his wand at the desolation, beginning once more to repair the street.
"I know," she agreed somberly. "It's the burden I'm forced to bear."
"Oh, don't listen to her, my little Prongslet!" Sirius boisterously interrupted, stepping up and clapping an arm around Harry's shoulders. "That clearly deserves another perfect score! I mean, man! Can I teach a kid, or can I teach a kid?" he self-congratulated, his preening somewhat lessened by the image of missing teeth and a prominent unibrow courtesy of Harry's markings, which the man still seemed oblivious to.
Nym and Harry rolled their eyes at the man in perfect synchronicity, though Harry was silently plotting revenge for the man's use of "Prongslet" at the same time.
"Uh, excuse me!" the Flash called out, interrupting their little family moment. "But can someone please tell me what the deal is with Big, Gray, and Scary over here?"
The subject of his concern, the hulking gray beast previously in the care of Harley, sat passively in the street surrounded by Leaguers staring at it uncertainly.
"Oh, I know! He's so cute, isn't he?" Harley squealed happily, evidently misinterpreting their looks of concern as those of adoration like hers was. Whipping her head back, the tails of her jester cap fanned out behind her as she looked up at Harry excitedly. "Can I keep 'im?!"
His look was decidedly less excited. "You want a pet that makes piles of crap bigger than you are?"
Her expression became somewhat more uncertain at that point. "Well, couldn't ya just … I dunno … magic that away?" she asked hopefully.
"Magic, my dear, is a very serious business," he informed her in a somber, mystical tone that those who knew the man would recognize as another spot-on Dumbledore impersonation. "It has no place being used for such domestic crap."
Of course, his point was somewhat undermined by the fact that he was using his wand to clean the sweat from his face and fix his hair at the time, as Harley clearly noticed, given her angry pout.
"It is just as well," Martian Manhunter spoke up, floating towards them while staring at the domesticated monster. "We will need to study this creature anyway to learn what we can about who sent it and its ilk. Hopefully, its mind will hold the answers we need."
"No luck there. I already checked," Harry informed the green-skinned telepath. "It's little more than a drone. Most of the creatures were. They can feel things, but they're mostly just blank slates otherwise. You'll need one of the telepaths if you want to get anything useful."
"The telepaths?" the martian asked in confusion.
"Yeah, the little bug-eyed creatures scattered throughout the horde," Harry explained. "They're the ones that were mentally controlling all the rest of the creatures. That's why they were all able to work together so well. If there's any answers to find on where they came from, those creatures have them."
"I see," the martian responded, staring out across the repaired and completely survivor-free battlefield. "Then I suppose we shall have to find the culprits some other way."
"Oh, there's no need for that," Harry informed the hero with a half-smile. "My uncle is currently sitting on a few of them for me."
"Wait," Harley interrupted, looking around curiously as she realized she hadn't seen the man in quite some time, "where is yer uncle?"
"Let me show you," Harry replied, clearing his throat and calling out, "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good!"
"Yeah, that's a comforting thing to hear right now," Zatanna muttered, still staring warily at the necromancer. However, she and everyone else was soon distracted by a warping in the air nearby, quickly revealing the form of Remus Lupin bent over and prying what she recognized as an elaborately carved wardstone off the ground.
And scattered across the ground behind him were at least one of each of the gray-skinned creatures, all apparently unconscious and magically restrained, and each one with an unassuming piece of rubble stuck somewhere on their body.
"Rule number one for engaging with an unknown hostile force," Harry recited. "CONSTANT VIGILANCE!"
Everyone around jumped nearly a foot at the sudden bellow from the obviously mad wizard.
"But rule thirty-seven is to always take some prisoners. And that means having somewhere to restrain them, and someone on guard duty to handle them," he continued more rationally, though with a deviously delighted smile at everyone's unnerved looks.
"Yes, and why is it always me that receives that … high honor?" Remus complained as he pocketed what Harry termed the "Dungeon-To-Go!" wardstone.
"Would you prefer Sirius hold that responsibility?" Harry asked, to which Sirius responded with a hateful hiss upon hearing the dreaded "R" word spoken in the same sentence as his name.
"Fair point," Remus tiredly sighed before turning to the martian and waving at the prisoners Harry had surreptitiously portkeyed to him throughout the battle. "Feel free to interrogate one of the creatures, if you'd like."
"Um … thank you," Martian Manhunter replied, appearing somewhat at a loss for how to deal with the decidedly strange wizards. And so he instead simply floated over to the assembled prisoners, where he immediately began staring intensely at one of the small, horned creatures as he telepathically probed its mind.
"As for all of you," Batman's gruff voice suddenly sounded, causing many of the young heroes to jump as they spun around to find the caped crusader standing right behind them, "I believe you were instructed to leave when the battle started. I expect an explanation."
Admittedly, the Dark Knight's authority was somewhat compromised by the brilliant pink drawings of a bow and whiskers on his cowl, but as his cold white eyes fell on them, no one felt the urge to laugh.
However, they clearly weren't all cowed by his glare even so.
"You brought us here!" Donna argued, the hot-headed amazon glaring openly at the bat. "You said we could get some experience fighting next you. Then the fight starts, and you treat us like kids and tell us to leave? What'd you expect us to do, tuck our tails and say 'Yes, sir!' and go take a nap?!"
"Donna!" Wonder Woman scolded, glaring at her impetuous younger sister.
"When we invited you along," Batman began sternly, "it was because the intel we received pointed at a minor incursion directed at this city—a chance for you to get your feet wet in a moderately controlled situation. In reality, what we were facing was a large-scale attack directed at the Justice League itself, which you were frankly unprepared for and we had no place letting you get in the middle of." As Donna glared more fiercely, however, Batman stepped closer. "You say we're treating you like children," he continued a bit more softly. "Well, part of being an adult is knowing your limits, and recognizing when you're in over your head." His eyes narrowed. "And part of being in the Justice League is following orders, whether you agree with them or not."
As Donna glared murderously at Batman, however, Harry spoke up.
"You know, I'm starting to think you were better off in your jackass form," he pondered loudly. "At least then you were showing your true nature honestly."
Batman turned back to this wizard, his eyes narrowing intensely. "As for you," he growled, stalking closer to the wizard, and causing Harley to clutch him more tightly in fear. "The next time you pull a stunt like that while my people are on the field, you'll find yourself on a one-way trip to Belle Reve Penitentiary," he promised fiercely.
"And the next time you threaten me to my face, old man, will be the last time you have the ability to do so," Harry replied, his tone breezy and casual, but his eyes as hard as stone as he met the bat's gaze levelly.
"Ooookay, that's enough of that!" Kara nervously decided, flying over and physically interjecting herself between the fiercely glaring Batman and the wizard twirling his wand daringly before a rematch could take place and destroy the street for a third time.
"She's right," Superman agreed, flying over and laying a hand on Batman's shoulder. "Come on; we should see if Martian Manhunter has anything for us."
For several moments, Batman continued to stand there glaring at Harry. But finally, he forcefully shrugged Superman's hand off his shoulder and stalked over towards the green-skinned telepath still mentally examining one of the captives.
Kara gave a heavy sigh of relief as he did.
"And Kara, when we get home, we're going to have some words about everything you've done today," Superman warned her sternly as he started to fly after Batman.
"What?! You mean you're seriously on Batman's side?!" Kara demanded incredulously.
"You weren't ready to get in the middle of something like that," Kal insisted, turning back. "None of you were," he continued, addressing the rest of the young heroes. "You're too young, too inexperienced. You–"
"Can't any of you even see what we did out there?!" Kara interrupted heatedly. "You keep saying this fight was too much for us, but we fought side by side with you and held our own! We even saved all your asses so Harry could blast all those ugly things to smithereens! We did damn good work out there! And all you can say is, 'You should have gone home'?!"
"It's not a question of your abilities, Kara!" Kal argued. "Yes, you did good work out there! But that doesn't mean you should have been out there in the first place! We're your mentors! It's our job—my job—to protect you!"
"No! It's not!" Kara shouted fiercely.
After a moment of meeting her glare, Superman's shoulders slumped tiredly. "Why can't you see it from our side? We're not trying to be the bad guys, here. We're just trying to look out for you—all of you. When the world found out we were letting minors work alongside us, the media tore us to shreds, but we accepted it, because we felt you had a right to use your skills and powers to do some good in this world. And we also accepted that it was our responsibility not only to teach you what we know, but to make sure you stay alive while we do it. Because if any of you died out there, that'd be squarely on us for bringing you into this life."
At that, he turned back to Kara, a more vulnerable look entering the Man of Steel's eye. "And you, Kara … you're my cousin, the last blood family I have. Like it or not, it is my job to keep you safe." His face grew sad. "Even if you hate me for it."
Kara's face softened slightly, but the firmness in her eyes did not. "You're right, Kal," she admitted, making him look up hopefully. "You're my cousin," she repeated. "You're not my father. No matter how much you want to keep me safe, it's not your job to make my decisions for me. It's mine."
Superman stared at her for a moment before chuckling slightly. "You know, I think I said something very similar to my folks, once," he shared before sighing and rubbing his hand through his hair. "Look, just … go home for now? Please? I promise, I'll think about what you said, but for now, I need to finish taking care of this mess." He started to fly towards Batman and Manhunter, but paused. "Oh, and … thank you, Harry Potter," he said, turning a grateful eye on the surprised-looking wizard. "You really were a great help out there. I … we … all appreciate it." He gained a bit of mirth in his eyes as he looked over at Batman. "Even if some of us won't admit it," he added before flying away.
"… Huh," Harry remarked. "Now I almost regret the time-delayed pictures of dicks that'll be showing up all over his face later." The corners of his lips lifted in a smile. "Almost."
Once again, Kara couldn't help but laugh at her wizard.
"So that's it?" Kid Flash demanded irately. "A half-hearted pat on the back by Superman, while Batman chews us out and sends us to our beds without dinner?"
"It could have been a lot worse," the red-haired Tula interjected. "We disobeyed a direct order. We'll be lucky if a scolding is all we receive."
"Like Kara said, we did damn good work out there!" Robin argued. "I think we deserve a lot better than hoping we don't get a talking-to." He huffed and looked over at his mentor. "Though I'd actually be really surprised if that's all we had to look forward to," he added, cringing at the thought of what Batman would have in store for him later.
"This is bullshit," Donna bluntly summarized, folding her arms and glaring across the street at her sister, who met her gaze with a silent promise of a scolding of her own later. "And nothing's going to change, either. Even though we proved what we're capable of, they're still going to keep sticking us on kid's detail after this."
"Well … legally speaking, we are still kids," Zatanna weakly pointed out, though quickly cringing under the amazon's fierce look. "Technically," she added.
"So, what, we're going to be stuck rescuing cats out of trees until we're eighteen? That's bullcrap!" Kid Flash complained.
"Trouble in paradise?" Remus asked Harry quietly as he watched the young heroes get into a more and more headed debate about what they were ready for.
"Evidently," Harry replied, gently stroking Harley's painted cheek with his thumb as she nearly went to sleep right there with her face nuzzled into his chest. "How are the capes getting on with their interrogation?"
"Not well," Remus answered. "The green one told the muggle that the creature is apparently highly resistant to telepathy, so it'll take a while to find anything useful. When I left, the flying one was suggesting bringing it back to their headquarters for a more lengthy telepathic interrogation."
Harry snorted. "Well, let's see if we can't lend them a hand, then, shall we?" he asked, tapping his wand against his leg and reactivating the portkey stuck to one of the creatures. Unnoticed by the Leaguers interrogating one of its brethren, the creature vanished from the line-up and reappeared in front of Harry.
"Imperio," he incanted, forcing the tiny creature into a powerful hypnotic state while awaiting his mental commands. Rather than give any, however, he simply incanted, "Legilimens."
With its mental defenses forcefully lowered by the nearly irresistible effects of the unblockable imperius curse, his mental probe faced almost no difficulty whatsoever in plundering the creature's mind.
"Get anything?" Remus asked as his nephew finally lowered his wand moments later.
"I'll say," he replied, staring thoughtfully at the creature before tapping his wand against his thigh once more, sending the creature back to the rest of his captives.
As he pondered what he had learned from the creature, though, the sound of more heated complaints reached him from the still agitated young heroes.
And then he got an idea. An awful idea. A wonderful, awful idea.
Remus groaned loudly. "I know that face. That's your 'I have a terrible plan that will piss off a lot of people' face."
"Wouldn't that just be my normal face, then?" Harry asked in amusement.
Remus sighed tiredly. "You know, I didn't have a single gray hair before I moved in with you and Sirius," he complained, ruffling his salt-and-pepper mane sadly.
"Yes, living with Sirius is a lot to deal with," Harry commented sympathetically, to a flat look from his uncle. "So, think you can keep our cape-wearing minders busy for a bit while I do what I do?"
Remus snorted before clapping Harry on his shoulder. "Be careful, pup," he told the teen.
"No promises," he replied with a grin as Remus trudged back to the captives shaking his head in amusement.
"Yer goin' afta' the guys who sent these things, ain'tcha?" Harley spoke up suddenly, unburying her face and looking up at him.
"I am," he said, brushing a loose hair out of her eyes and tucking it back under her cap. "You want to come?"
"I go where you go," she told him simply, smiling brightly at him.
Smiling back, he leaned down and gave her a soft, gentle kiss, causing her to purr warmly.
"We're going to have some friends along for this outing, you know," he told her as they finally let go of each other.
"Ah, they deserve a chance to show up those stuck-up Leaguers," she replied, smoothing her costume and hefting her mallet on her shoulder. "It'll be good for 'em."
He grinned. "My thoughts exactly," he said as they marched over towards Kara and the Mini-Leaguers, who weren't seeming so mini any longer.
A few minutes later, unnoticed by the Justice League, a wizard, a jester, and a growing team of young heroes disappeared with a muted blue flash, ready to prove themselves to the League and the world by finding the secrets buried within the source of this latest attack:
Author's note: Well, look at that! It only took eight months to update this story!
Wooh! I'm on fire!
Seriously, though, I'm really sorry about the long delay. I've been dealing with a serious hit to my writing confidence lately with Spirit of Iron, and combined with both a busy season at work and my pervasive financial straits, it's been a bit of a struggle getting back into my writing, to put it lightly. But I'm here now! And hopefully, I can stick with it this time and get back into my writing schedule.
On a related note, I've also created a P-a-t-r-e-o-n account under the name Raolin. If any of you are interested, any support you could give would be greatly appreciated. I get by on freelance work to make money, so it can be difficult to put aside time to write when that means deliberately turning aside paid work, especially when I'm not in the greatest financial place as it is. If I can actually start making some money from my writing itself, though, that means I'll be able to devote more time to my writing, and thus be able to write more chapters more quickly. As a bonus, I'll also be posting rough drafts of my chapters early on my page, so you can read them a few days before I finish editing and proofreading those chapters to publish them officially, if that interests you. On top of that, I'm also starting to work on a couple original stories of my own, so I should be able to start posting chapter drafts of those as well, once they've reached that point.
Anyways, I hope you enjoy the chapter, and let me know what you think :) I'll see you next chapter!
… hopefully in less than eight months this time.