Standard Disclaimers in part 1

Pieces of Stone

Chapter 8:

A Blustery Wind

XX

Nightwing instinctively shielded his face with his forearm as the Joker depressed the detonator. But instead of going off, the detonator sprung into a bouquet of fake flowers.

Not amused, the Joker's twisted face pulled downward in a grotesque frown, then looked around, about to ask what the big idea was. A moment later, there was a flash of smoke, and a large ornate box stood at the edge of the dance floor, instead of the Joker. It was a dark polished wood, runes carved into every square inch of it.

A bit stunned, Nightwing walked over to it slowly, a gloved hand tracing the carved trim, then he looked up, searching the rafters for Harry but seeing no one. Something knocked against the wood, and he jumped back, startled. He'd seen a lot of things with the Titans… or even with Batman for that matter. But that was a little weird. Through the thick wood, the Joker was letting off a litany of muffled curses, threatening to carve up the Penguin and roast him for dinner if he didn't get his "magic rocks" back.

"Not bad, huh?" Harry asked without a bit of smugness in his voice.

Nighwing turned around and looked at his friend, who was standing there with his arms folded over his chest. He supposed he should ask Harry if there were air holes in the box, but somehow the words couldn't make their way out.

Harry kicked the dense wood, and it made a tiny thud. "Why gift-wrap, when you can just put it in a nice box?" Looking around at the remainder of the crowed, Harry gave his wand the tiniest flick. "Alieno," he muttered. Instantly, they began to look tired and dazed. "They'll forget what happened. They'll remember this night as being as unmemorable as every other."

It was a distracted explanation following on the heels of his bland attempt at humor. Harry was avoiding something. Nightwing took his hand off of the wooden box. "We'll find them."

Calling his broom to him, Harry ignored his friend's platitudinous promise and took off.

Sighing, Nightwing shot off a line, but by the time he got to the roof, Harry was nowhere in sight.

XX

Ron sighed, finally able to catch his breath. He leaned his head against the jagged cave wall, staring across the small grove at his sister. Her head was resting on her knees, but she wasn't sleeping or weeping—she was plotting. She'd given up her tirades, and her attempts at using magic to escape, kill him and bring the roof down on top of them.

He'd used old spells, like the kinds that kept under aged wizards from doing certain things like Aparating at Hogwarts. He'd been planning and preparing this place for a long time. He'd hoped he never had to use it, but if he was going to take a desperate measure to take Ginny out of the game, there was going to be no way in hell she could escape. Azkaban would be easier to get out of than this cave—for both of them.

Her eyes latched onto his. "Don't look at me."

Ron's stomach sunk still lower. It had gone past his toes and was now residing uncomfortably on the floor. "Ginny… I'm sorry." The words sounded hollow. Perhaps, a long time ago, he had meant them. Now he was too tired inside to do much more than remember how he used to care, and remember all the nights he'd stared at the ceiling, wondering how things had gotten this far out of control.

"Shut up," she ordered, turning her eyes away from him.

Ron was used to people trying to kill him. That seemed to be his "reward" for being friends with Harry Potter. Mostly it was people trying to kill Harry, and Ron just habitually was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But by the time he was an adult, and the thing with Voldemort had reared it's ugly head, popped and oozed out all over the wizarding community, Ron had managed to collect a shopping list of people who royally hated his guts. He never thought his sister would be on that list.

XX

Rain still belted against the crags and cliffs, making the tropic island seem more like Hogwarts when November dove towards winter, straight through the freezing rain and thick, low-hanging clouds.

The last blast had knocked Harry off of his broom. He hit the sand and sunk into it, wet granules sticking inside his nostrils and eyes. Crawling to his feet, Harry wiped the sand away, trying to see through the rain to the monstrous thing that had attacked his friends. This was truly the worst vacation from school he'd ever had, and he'd spent how many years living with the Dursleys?

It was then that he saw the bodies… Ron was nowhere in sight. But the Titans…

"What have you done to them?" Harry screamed. He could barely hear his voice over the beat of the tropical rain. Blood was washing off of their battered, contorted forms, staining the sand then slipping away in the downpour.

Turning back to Gargoyle, Harry raised his wand, prepared to deliver a killing curse. He could feel salty tears running down his cheeks, burning as they mixed with the rain. Passing the sleeve of his free hand under his nose, he wiped away what was dripping there as well. Who was this creature? Had he killed them, simply because they'd been with Harry?

His lips had been wrapped around the words "Spherus incindio," to blow the creature to bits with a fireball, but slowly they loosened their grip. "Who are you? Has Voldemort sent you?" He could always kill the thing later, he supposed. But his only chance for answers was now.

"Harry, put down your wand!" the creature begged. "Harry… I'm not going to fight you…" The creature sounded so much like Ron.

Shaking his head, Harry blinked the rain away and squinted at the Grotesque. It had to be more trickery. "Who sent you? Or I'll kill you right here!"

The vowel pushing beneath his teeth, " Spherus " slipped out just as something crashed into his shoulder blades, knocking him back into the sand.

A gloved hand slapped his face. "Harry? Harry, he's in your head. Whatever you're seeing, it isn't real. Ron, get the wand away from him."

A second later, the gargoyle yanked it away from him with stony claws. "He was going to kill me, he was. Come on, Harry. Wake up. Get with it."

Slowly, the monster faded, leaving his friend in it's place. "Ron?" Looking around at the others, he saw that they were very much alive. And Robin was on top of him. "You can get off. I'm OK. What WAS that thing?"

Letting Harry go, Robin stood up. "Gargoyle. He plays on your worst fears. And he has a mad-on for us Titans. Sorry you got caught up in that." Taking Harry's hand, Robin hauled his new friend to his feet.

"We can get into boat-loads of trouble on our own, so it's not like I can hold it against you." Rubbing a hand over his face to get the rain out of his eyes, Harry looked around again. "Where's Bertha and Charlie?" A ten ton dragon was awful hard to lose.

Kid Flash dashed back and forth in a blur of yellow, then stopped next to Harry. "Gargoyle vanished after we finally got Ron out of the rocks… maybe he he's gone after them."

Throwing what was left of his snapped and shattered bow over his shoulder, Speedy grabbed a handful of arrows and shrugged. "Well, lets get going. Titans together and all that."

Wonder Girl grabbed Speedy, trying not to bash her battered leg off of anything. Aqualad and Robin were already following after the yellow trail left by Kid Flash. No one bothered to try telling them to stay behind, so Harry hopped his broom and tried to keep it steady with the extra weight of Ron as a passenger, and they were off.

XX

When you're young, nothing really phases you, Harry thought. He'd just seen friends slaughtered in front of him, but it had turned out to be a trick, so he hadn't thought beyond that. He'd mourned for Cedric, for Dumbledore and the rest, when they'd been taken in the war with Voldemort. But he hadn't dwelled upon it. He'd just kept pressing on.

Until Ginny.

It was a basic truth in life that 'that which brought the most joy also brought the most pain.' It was something he'd never really understood until that night when the Death Eaters had succeeded in destroying his life in a way Voldemort had never managed to. He'd dared to have friends, to create a family amongst the Weasleys to fill the void of where his 'given' family should have been. He'd found happiness with someone—had created a life with that person, and because of that, they, or the Universe, had seen fit to punish him.

Ultimately, everything that had happened since then was his fault.

Cold, dry snow swirled in front of him and below as it swirled around the rooftops. He needed to find her and Ron, before they killed each other. No. He needed the stones.

Making a wide turn, he circled back and stopped. He couldn't think straight when Ginny was involved. They were all right. He couldn't blame the Ministry for disowning him. It killed him, but the Ministry was right, Dick was right. He was probably more harm now than help.

Was there a way to salvage this situation?

XX

Peeling a glove off, Dick ran it over his sweating face. Leaning over the chair at his desk, he dialed up Zatanna, trying to figure out what the hell she told Ronald Weasley.

Wind ripped through his apartment until he finally caught his breath long enough to shut the window. By the time he got back to the computer, Zatanna still hadn't answered his hailing. A few more moments of frustration, and he saw a blip appear on the desk top, letting him know a message had arrived.

'No time to chat,' it started without preamble. 'Got my own troubles to worry about. It looks like there's already been one failed resurrection attempt, and it created a rift. Their previous lack of success is what prompted the current action of the stones. Without the stones, closing the rift will be next to impossible. Since this technically is an earth-ending crisis, the Justice League is on standby. Various world governmental agencies governing magic have been notified and are searching for the stones, but they seem to have vanished. I have no other information. Call me only if you have something.'

No signature, nothing else, really. Zatanna must have been dealing with the whole "rift" thing, probably trying to hold the gaping wound in time closed with a butterfly bandage when sutchers were more of what was needed.

Leaning against the wall, Nightwing slammed his head against it once. What had she told Ron? Ron had been the one to make them fall off the map. Surely Ron knew that they were needed for something important?

A cold breeze tore through the apartment, and Nightwing turned back to the window, sure he was losing his mind. Hadn't he just closed that?

"Alright," a dark, solemn voice said just beyond the frame. "We'll do this together. I . . . haven't exactly been doing the best job of this on my own. And I just . . . have this bad feeling. Like things're going to go from worse to 'worse still' very, very quickly."

Nightwing looked back at the computer. Was it even possible? "Yeah. Good guess. Basically, they've already made one attempt and failed. Zatanna's dealing with that mess. But we're not just keeping the stones away from Ginny, by hiding them or destroying them or otherwise, to prevent the Death Eaters from raising Voldemort. If we don't get them back in once piece, that 'mess' is going to bust reality open."

Harry hopped off of his broom and through the window, flicking his wand to push it shut. "Then we're going to need some backup."

"I can contact Batman and the Justice League--"

Shaking his head, Harry looked around the apartment, until he saw a rectangular protrusion in the wall, brick painted over a thousand times and some tile. Muttering an incantation under his breath, a hole blasted in the portion of the brick, blowing away the plaster blocking the fire place. Another spell, and where there had once been only dust and dirt a fire was roaring.

It was impressive, really. "Uh, I don't think that's a real fire place." It probably had been at one time, but it was probably blocked off at the top as well, to prevent heat loss in the old building.

The fire began roaring and flickering green. "That's ok. It's not a real fire. Hello! Anybody home?"

A face appeared among the allegedly fake flames (from which heat was emanating, Dick sniped mentally). "It's five in the morning," a woman's voice scolded. Eyes focusing on the two faces, her fiery eyebrows furrowed. She could have been Babs, with that look of concentrated consternation. "What has Ron gotten himself into this time?"

Harry looked at Nightwing, giving him a grim smile. "Well, 'Mione, you're not gunna like this one very much . . ."

TO BE CONTINUED . . .