Harry Potter Returns
A Harry Potter/Superman Returns Crossover
The Kryptonian Who Fell to Little Whinging
Harry Potter lay on his bed in the smallest bedroom in number four, Privet Drive, still smiling from the events of today: his return to King's Cross on the Hogwarts Express, and the reception his friends in the Order of the Phoenix had given his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon. They had said — in no uncertain terms! — that they would be checking in on Harry if he wasn't in contact with them at least once every three days.
Oh, it had not sat well with either of them, mind you! His uncle had swelled up and blustered, trying to intimidate the Order members, but men like Remus Lupin and Alastor Moody did not intimidate easily, especially not for someone like Vernon Dursley. He'd backed down quickly enough when Moody glared at him with his electric blue magical eye, and Aunt Petunia had whimpered piteously at the thought of these — these freaks — walking up to their house, while all the neighbors watched! She, Vernon and Dudley, who'd tried (and failed miserably) to hide behind his mother while Vernon was being dressed down by the Order members, had followed Harry out of King's Cross and to their car for the drive home.
Oh, he'd gotten an earful on the way home, to be sure. Vernon had ranted and carried on all the way back to Little Whinging, shouting that nobody better talk to him that way again, or he'd know the reason why! Harry merely sat in the rear seat, smiling, while Dudley pressed himself against the opposite side of the back seat, staying as far from Harry as possible, and Petunia sat stony-faced while Vernon turned the air inside the vehicle blue with his language. Once home, he was ordered up to his room without dinner, and the door locked behind him, but he didn't care. He had his trunk and Hedwig in her cage, and the window to his room was no longer locked or barred, so he could send her out with posts whenever he wanted.
Not everything was perfect, however. Sirius was dead. Harry was still numb about that. He'd talked to Nearly-Headless Nick, who'd told him his godfather would not return — only those who were afraid to go on, or felt they had unfinished business on Earth, remained as pale shadows of themselves among the living. A man like Sirius Black was neither fearful of what lay beyond, nor remiss in his affair with life, to return as a ghost.
It was only after talking with Luna Lovegood, who had lost her mother some years earlier, that he had regained a measure of hope. Luna fully expected to be with her mother again, someday. That surety, even though Luna was admittedly a bit…odd, had impressed Harry. He would see Sirius again one day, he now believed — and though he wished with all his heart that it could be sooner than later, for he loved the sense of freedom and fierce joy that Sirius had always embraced, he would not follow the path of recklessness that his uncle had lived. Because it had gotten him killed.
Hedwig was moving restlessly in her cage, and Harry sensed she wanted out, to feed. Rolling off the bed, he went over and opened the cage. "You hungry, or maybe you just want to stretch your wings after that long train ride," he said, stroking her head gently as she stepped onto his arm and he walked over to the window. He let her step onto his desk, then unlatched the window and pushed it opened. "I'll leave the window open for you. Just don't make too much racket when you come in — I'm going to sleep as late as I can tomorrow, while the Dursleys are still in shock over King's Cross."
She looked around at him and hooted gratefully, then took off. Harry watched he fly into the evening sky, finally disappearing in the darkness. Harry leaned out the window, checking up and down Privet Drive for activity. Most of the houses were dark; it was a sultry evening, and Harry guessed that everyone was in their air-conditioned houses, out of the heat that was still oppressive even at this late hour. With the window open, there was a slight breeze, however, making the heat almost bearable. He could hear the rumble of distant thunder; if a storm was coming in he might have to close the window after all. It would not be a pleasant night for sleeping, but Harry wasn't really sleepy at the moment anyway. He wasn't too keen on spending the night hanging out the window, however.
But as Harry glanced upward into the night sky, just as he decided to lie down again, he caught sight of a light that seemed different from the other stars in the sky that night. He watched it for several seconds, then realized it wasn't a star at all, but some type object. It seemed to be growing brighter, but was not moving laterally in any direction relative to Harry's viewpoint. That meant, Harry realized, that whatever it was, it was headed straight for him!
If it was some kind of meteor, and if it hit the house, or even anywhere near it, it could kill everyone inside — possibly damage even more houses if it was big enough!
For a moment Harry panicked — he didn't know what to do! Get the Dursleys out of the house? They probably wouldn't even listen to him — after what had happened at King's Crossing, they might even be afraid to talk to him! But no — his uncle had cussed him out pretty good on the way home. He would have to try.
But even as he started to pull his head in the window, to begin yelling for everyone to get out of the house, he saw the meteor begin to move. It was beginning to move directly over the house, heading west. When it passed out of sight over the top of the house, Harry tore out of his room, across the hallway, running full tilt into the door of Dudley's room. It was locked, but the doorjam cracked as he hit the door and bounced back. Harry stared at the door for a moment, then put his shoulder into it, and the door broke open. He dashed across Dudley's room, catching only a glimpse of Dudley lying on his bed watching telly, and threw open Dudley's window to look out it.
"WHAT THE HELL?!" Dudley shouted, sitting bolt upright and glaring at Harry with a combination of anger and fear.
"DUDLEY COME QUICK — LOOK!" Harry shouted, pointing out the window, which faced the west. He could see a trail of smoke across the sky, illuminated by flames coming from the meteor — it quickly disappeared over the edge of the house next door.
"What the hell are you doing in my room?!" Dudley shouted. He hadn't moved other than to sit upright. "Get out!"
"But —" Harry cut himself off, knowing it was useless. He tore back out of Dudley's room, across the hall and back into his own room. He wanted to find out where that meteor was headed!
"What the hell is going on up there?!" Vernon bellowed from downstairs. "Boy, you'd better be in your room when I get up there!" Harry heard his uncle stomping up the staircase.
He looked around wildly, trying to figure out how to go after that meteor. There was really only one way — his Firebolt! But he'd already carefully hidden it away between the slats and mattress of his bed. It made sleeping a bit uncomfortable, because he could feel the bulge of the broom beneath him at night, but he knew Dudley would never take the trouble to lift his mattress to find it. Besides, Dudley was nearly as scared of magic as his parents were, especially since Hagrid had given him that pig's tail back when they first met, on Harry's eleventh birthday.
But Harry needed time to get the Firebolt out from under the bed, and he was nearly out of time! His uncle had reached the first landing, he could tell from the sound of his footsteps, and was mere moments from entering Harry's room. Well, he'd just have to hope he could sort out the mess he was about to cause. Taking out his wand, Harry pointed it at the door and said, "Colloportus!" just as Vernon slammed into it on the other side.
"Have you locked this door?!" Vernon was shouting. "Open it this instant!" Not likely, Harry thought. He heaved the mattress to one side, snatched up the Firebolt, then ran to the open window. Instead of trying to fly through it (knowing it was much too small an opening to try that), he pushed the broom through the window, holding on with both hands, then said "Up!" softly. The Firebolt rose into air, pulling Harry out of the window and into the air.
He rose until he reached the roof of number four, then had the Firebolt slide over so he could stand on it for a moment while he mounted the broom. Harry kicked off, rising into the night air, flying almost straight up to get altitude so he could find the smoke trail he'd seen.
He flew right into it.
Coughing, Harry popped out of the top of the smoke trail he'd flown through and stopped, hovering and looking around to get his bearings. Behind him, to the east, he could see the smoke trail beginning to dissipate; following it back, he saw it had clearly been headed straight down, toward his neighborhood, but the trail pulled up and continued west at a much shallower angle. A normal meteor wouldn't do something like that, Harry knew.
Turning to the west, Harry could see the meteor at the leading edge of the smoke trail. It seemed to be on fire, or at least glowing red-hot. Its angle of descent was now such that it would impact well away from the outskirts of Little Whinging — it would be several miles into the country, where not many people lived. That was good, Harry thought, since the chance of it hitting a house or inhabited area was minimal. Still, Harry wanted to follow it, to see the meteor itself once it impacted. And the smoke trail it was leaving behind would provide both a path for him to follow, and cover from anyone on the ground who might see him!
Harry urged the Firebolt forward, flying just above the smoke trail, and was soon traveling at its maximum speed, 150 MPH. The meteor (or whatever it was — Harry realized it must be some type of controlled object, or it couldn't have changed course the way it did over his house) was several miles ahead of him, and traveling nearly as fast. As Harry watched, it hit the ground at a shallow angle, making a sound like thunder, skidding perhaps the length of three Quidditch pitches before coming to rest. The ground on either side of the groove it dug was littered with small fires that burned with strange, actinic light. Harry landed a dozen yards from the object, trying to make out what he was seeing. It looked nothing like a chunk of rock, what he'd expected the meteorite to be.
It was as if someone had pulled one of the twinkling stars down from the sky. What he could see of the object seemed to be gleaming with its own internal light; there were large spires of what looked like crystal protruding from a central bulge that lay half-buried in the ground. The spires stood fifteen to twenty feet tall — Harry could only imagine how much of this thing was buried beneath the ground.
A sudden boom of thunder made him spin around, looking to see if another object had struck the earth. But the next moment he felt droplets of rain begin to splatter down on him, and lightning flashed above him. Within moments the few raindrops Harry felt turned into a torrential downpour. Great, Harry thought. I use magic in my Muggle relatives' house and fly out here on my magic broom, risking expulsion from school (again!) and now I'm going to get rained on, too!
Well, at least the rain was putting out some of the smaller fires along the groove dug by the object. Wiping rain off his glasses, Harry made his way around the object until he came to its leading edge; it was there he came upon his second surprise of the night.
A hatch door had been ejected; it lay several yards from the side of the object. A yellow light was coming from the opening; above it was an oval of green light. And lying across the threshold of the hatch was — a man.
Harry hesitated only a moment, then dropped the Firebolt and ran forward to where the man lay. He was wearing a dark, skin-tight suit; at first Harry thought it was a wetsuit, like scuba divers used, but on closer inspection saw it was composed of some kind of cloth, and it was covered in dust and grime. He could also hear a soft panting, as if the man were gasping for breath. "Hello?" Harry said, putting a hand on the man's shoulder. "Can you hear me?"
The man turned his head to face Harry; he saw that the man was fairly young, and handsome, with hair as black as Harry's own, and blue eyes that were filled with pain. The rain was coming down hard on both of them now, running down the man's face and spotting Harry's glasses. "H-help me," the man said, his voice almost a whisper. "K-kryptonite — must g-get it away."
"Kryptonite?" Harry repeated. "I don't know what that is — what's it look like?"
"Green — green rock," the man said, his voice faltering. "It — glows. Weakened me as…as I entered solar system. It must be somewhere on the ship's hull."
But Harry had already located the kryptonite. "It's right above you!" he said.
There was flash of light and a thunderous crash resounded, very close to them. Harry looked around quickly, seeing that lighting had struck a tree a few dozen yards away. The tree had been blown apart. Harry looked around for other trees, but the tallest object around now was the spires rising out of this object. They would have to get away from it before lightning struck it.
"Come on, we've got to move!" He put an arm under the man's shoulder and heaved. This guy is heavy, Harry thought. I may have to use my wand. Well, in for a Knut, in for a Galleon, as Ron might say. Harry took out his wand, pointed it toward the man, and said clearly, "Wingardium Leviosa!"
The man lifted slowly into the air, his legs coming out of the hatch until his feet were just touching the ground. "What — what are you doing?" the man asked, looking down at himself. "How am — am I flying?"
"You're not flying," Harry said. He reached out, taking the man by the arm, to pull him along. "It's — well, never mind what it is, we've got to get away from this thing —"
At that moment a bolt of lighting struck one of the spires, the one jutting out of the body of the object just above the hatch. An arc of green-tinted electricity jumped from the green rock above the hatch, striking the man. Electricity surged through Harry's body as well, and he saw only a flash of green explode before his eye, then darkness.
Harry awoke feeling…strange. He was lying on the ground next to the man from the meteor-object, who was beginning to move as well. Harry felt drained, sluggish — probably not unusual considering he'd just been struck by lightning! It was still raining, but the downpour had dwindled to a mild shower.
Sitting up, Harry looked around. They had both fallen a few feet from the side of the object, Harry could see the green crystal still glowing over the hatch door. He got slowly to his feet, then took a step toward it, but a wave of nausea passed through him and he stepped back. Feeling a little better, he knelt down next to the man and asked, "Can you move?"
The man looked up at him. "Yes, I think so." Getting slowly to his feet, he began moving down the slope of muddy earth gouged by the object's impact, with Harry holding his arm. Strangely, as they moved away from the craft, Harry began to feel better. The weakness and nausea he'd felt disappeared by the time they were a dozen yards from the hatchway of the object, or craft, or whatever it was.
But the man was still looking unwell; he moved unsteadily, as if weak, and kept looking back at the object until they had covered a dozen more yards. "Stop," he finally said, and Harry quit walking.
"How do you feel?" the man asked him, looking at Harry closely.
"Better," Harry replied. "A lot better, in fact. I feel great!" He looked up at the man who, now standing, was quite a bit taller than him. "Once we moved away from that — that, er, whatever-it-is," he said, "I began to feel better immediately!"
"Strange," the man looked back at the object again. "You shouldn't have felt anything at — kryptonite radiation only affects…" he fell silent, seeming to ponder something. After a moment, he reached down and picked up a fist-sized piece of rock. "Hold out your hand."
"Why?" Harry asked, eyeing the rock.
"I'm going to put this rock in your hand," the man said. "I want you to try and crush it in your hand."
Harry gave him a look of disbelief. "You're joking!"
"No," the man said, looking serious. "Just try, at least."
After a moment Harry, figuring he had nothing to lose, held out his hand. The man placed the rock in his palm and said, "Now squeeze your hand shut."
Harry closed his hand. The rock crumbled as if it were made of dry ashes. "Whoa," Harry breathed. "How did I do that?!"
"I think," the man replied, "that something happened as you were getting me out of my ship."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, emphatically. "We were hit by lightning! I'm surprised we survived!" He looked at the pulverized rock in his hand. "Well, maybe this was a bit more surprising." He looked up at the man. "What do you think happened?"
"The lightning hit one of the spires, then exited it near the base, through the chunk of kryptonite embedded in the side of the ship, striking me. You had just taken hold of my arm, to pull me away from the ship." He smiled at Harry. "I should have thanked you for that sooner — I don't know how much longer I could have lasted, that close to kryptonite."
"No problem," Harry said. "But, er —" he glanced at the gravel in his hand. "Can we get back to how I could have done this?"
The man nodded, becoming serious again. "I was weakened by the kryptonite, and the lightning seems to have acted as a conduit, transferring some of my power to you. I don't know how much, but I do feel weaker than I should, this far from that kryptonite."
"Sorry," Harry said. "I — wait a moment, I finally remembered who you are!" He'd been staring at the symbol on the man's chest, barely visible under the grime and dust covering it. "You're that bloke Superman, from America!"
The man didn't answer, but he nodded once. Harry looked back at the ship, then back at the Man of Steel. "I seem to remember that you left Earth, years ago. It was right around the time I started Ho— er, secondary school," he corrected himself automatically. "So, you're back?"
"I left Earth to find out for certain what had happened to my home planet, Krypton," Superman said. "Scientists believed they had discovered it orbiting the star Arcturus. I went there to see for myself, in this ship."
"I thought I read that you could fly in space," Harry said, remembering a few things he'd seen on this strange visitor from another world.
"But not 36 light-years," Superman said, with a wry smile. "Besides, once I reached Krypton I would lose my powers, and die in the vacuum of space."
"What did you find out there?" Harry asked, his curiosity piqued.
The man grew solemn. "I found a graveyard. There was nothing but an asteroid belt where Krypton would have been. Much of it consisted of chunks of kryptonite. I had brought along a spacesuit for EVA, but I dared not leave the protection of my ship and risk being exposed to its radiation. I explored the belt carefully for any signs of Krypton's civilization, but there was nothing left. I turned my ship toward Earth."
"How did you end up with that bit of — kryptonite, is it? — on your ship?" Harry asked.
"It must've hit my ship just before I went into stardrive," Superman mused. "I was inside the ship, mostly protected by it, until I entered the solar system and its radiation weakened me."
"And you think that the lightning bolt that struck us transferred some of your powers to me?" Harry continued, to make sure he understood. Superman nodded again, and Harry couldn't help but grin. "That's bloody brilliant!"
"I wouldn't put it that way," Superman said plaintively. "I learned how to use my powers — and how to control them — since I was a young boy. I've had to be very careful around people, both when I touch them and anything else, since everything is like ash or fine crystal in my grip. You'll have to learn to be very careful, um —" the Man of Steel gave Harry an inquiring look. "I sorry, I didn't catch your name?"
"I'm Harry Potter," Harry said.
"Harry, if you don't mind," Superman said. "I would like to ask you a personal question."
"Sure," Harry replied. "Go ahead."
"What were you doing out here with a broom?" Superman asked, pointing to Harry's Firebolt, which lay on the ground not far from where they stood.
"Uhh —" Harry didn't know what to say to that, but the man went on without waiting for him to answer.
"You also pointed something at me — something like a stick, or wand — and said something, and I began to float in the air," he continued. "That suggests that you can control magical forces."
"You know about magic?" Harry asked, warily. "Not many people do."
"My father, Jor-El, gathered extensive information from the 28 known galaxies and sent it with me to Earth," Superman told him. "He had also gathered much information on Earth and he believed it was the best place to send me when Krypton exploded. There are certain humans that have the capability of generating and using magic."
"Well, you're right about that," Harry said. There was no use lying about it, not to this man. "I'm a wizard."
"How long have you been a wizard?" Superman asked.
"My entire life, I guess," Harry said with a shrug. "Though I didn't find out 'til I was eleven — when I got a letter inviting me to attend a special school — Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — from Hagrid. He's the Keeper of the Keys and Grounds, and the Care of Magical Creatures teacher, too," Harry added, now almost eager to share information with Superman, now that he knew what Harry was. "Hagrid was the one that told me I was a wizard. He knew my mom and dad, before they were killed."
"Your parents are dead?" Superman asked, his eyes filled with concern.
"Yes," Harry replied, now uncomfortable that this subject had come up. It reminded him that his godfather, Sirius Black, had just been killed by his cousin, Bellatrix Lestrange. "They were killed by a Dark wizard named Voldemort."
"I…see," Superman said, slowly. "Dark wizards are considered evil, then?"
"Very," Harry nodded. "And Voldemort has been the most evil wizard we know of. He almost gained control of Wizarding Britain, until he was stopped by — me, though it was really due to my mother."
"I guess I don't understand," Superman said, after several moments of silence. "Can you explain?"
"Voldemort attacked my parents when I was a little over a year old," Harry said. "He killed my father, then came after me. My mother tried to protect me, but he killed her as well. But, as my headmaster explained to me, before she died she placed an ancient enchantment on me that would protect me if she died."
"How do you know this?" Superman asked, intrigued. "Do you remember what happened?"
"No," Harry shook his head. "I was told by the headmaster at my school, Professor Dumbledore, what happened. He also told me," Harry added, his voice becoming flinty, "that he placed me with my only blood relative, my Aunt Petunia, who was my mother's sister, in order to keep me safe from Voldemort's allies."
"How does that keep you safe?" Superman asked.
"He placed an enchantment on me," Harry replied, "that when a blood relation of mine accepted me into their home, would extend the protection my mother gave me to their home and land. My aunt accepted me — unwillingly, I can tell you that! — but since she did accept me, as long as I can call their house my home, the protection of my mother continues."
"Hm," Superman said, nodding. Then he looked at Harry and said, "I can't pretend to understand everything you've told me tonight, but —"
"Well, I suppose it's perfectly understandable," Harry cut over him, unthinkingly, "that I'm standing here in the middle of a field talking to super-powered man from another planet, next to his spaceship, I get hit by lightning, and not only do I survive, but some of his superpowers have jumped into me!"
Superman managed a chuckle at that. "I see your point, Harry. All the same, before we talk any more, I would like to cover our tracks. No one can find this ship here." He looked around at the various small fires still burning around them. The rain had nearly stopped by now. "Can you put out these fires?" Harry nodded. "Good," Superman said, "I'm going to find some lead."
"Lead?" Harry asked, looking around at the fires. "What for —" but by the time he'd turned back the Man of Steel had disappeared. Harry shook his head, wondering if the Kryptonian could Apparate, then reached for his wand.
At the last moment, remembering the rock he'd crushed, Harry grasped his wand as carefully as he could. If he paid attention to what he was doing, it seemed he could handle objects with what would be his normal human strength. He pulled out the wand, pointed it at the nearest fire, and said "Aguamenti!"
A geyser of water blasted out of Harry's wand, almost jerking it from his hand. "Whoa!" Harry said, and the geyser stopped. Wow, he thought, I was thinking I'd need a lot of water, but not that much! He tried again, toning down the amount of water he expected, and a strong stream of water issued from his wand, dousing fire after fire as he moved alongside the groove carved out by Superman's ship.
He'd reached the far end of the ditch, and was crossing over to the other side to begin putting out the fires there, when Superman suddenly landed beside him, carrying two large squares of lead sheathing under his arm. "You can fly?" Harry asked, surprised.
"Yes," Superman said. "Didn't you know that about me?"
"I guess I did," Harry shrugged. "But wizards can't fly unaided. I suppose I just never thought about anyone really doing it."
"Well, now do you believe a man can fly?" Superman asked him, seemingly amused.
"Oh, definitely," Harry said, emphatically.
"Good," Superman said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Now, our first order of business is to neutralize that kryptonite."
"What about these fires?" Harry asked, pointing to the blazes still burning on one side of the ditch. "I'm still putting them out."
"I can handle them," Superman said, turning to face the several hundred yards of fires burning between them and the ship. "Stay behind me."
He took a deep breath, and Harry watched with wonder as the flames seemed to sway toward them, as if there was a wind blowing their way. The next moment Superman exhaled, and Harry gasped. A veritable hurricane of icy cold air blew from between his lips, and all the fires still burning were almost immediately snuffed out!
"That was…brilliant," Harry finally said, when he got his voice back. "D'you think I can do stuff like that, too?"
"That's something I'd like to find out," Superman told him. He hefted the sheets of lead. "But first, we have to take care of that kryptonite."
"What's the plan?" Harry asked.
"First, take my hand," Superman said, offering Harry his right hand. When Harry reached for it the Man of Steel said, "With your left hand, Harry, so we're standing side by side."
"Okay," Harry said, feeling a bit ridiculous. "But I must warn you, I have it on good authority that I'm a lousy dancer."
Superman laughed. "I'm not very good at it, either, to tell the truth. But we're not going to dance."
Harry looked at him. "Then what are we going to do?"
"Fly," Superman said. "Look down."
Harry looked down, and gasped again. They were ten feet off the ground, and rising! He grabbed Superman's hand with both of his own and hung on. "Don't worry," Superman said. "I've got you."
"Yeah," Harry said, anxiously. "But nobody's got you!"
"Just think of it as riding a broomstick…without the broomstick," Superman suggested. "We're not going far, just to the other side of my ship." They floated over to and around the ship, landing about fifty feet from the hatch where the chunk of kryptonite still glowed eerily green.
"Wow," Harry said as they touched down. "I can't believe I actually flew — with nothing holding me up but you!"
"If I'm correct about what happened with my powers," Superman said, "I think we'll find that you can do the same without any assistance from me.
"But, first things first," Superman continued. "We need to take care of that kryptonite. He took one of the lead plates and tossed it toward the craft. It landed about ten feet from the craft, on a line directly between Harry and the kryptonite. "What we want to do," he told Harry, "is to get the kryptonite onto that lead plate. Harry, do you know any magic that could pull that chunk free from the craft?"
Harry thought for a moment. "Maybe a Levitation Charm — but I don't know if it'll work if the kryptonite is stuck there. I could do a Summoning Charm, but we don't want it getting too near us." Suddenly, he was hit by a blinding flash of the obvious. "I just realized," he said, annoyed that he hadn't thought of it right off. "I can cast a Reduction Charm on it! It should fall right out of the hole it made when it hit your ship!" He gauged the distance between himself and the chunk of glowing green crystal. "I need to get a bit closer, though — I might miss at this range."
"Okay," Superman said. "We can use this other sheet of lead for protection. I don't think you'll want to get any closer than about 20 feet, though — any closer and the kryptonite's radiation will begin to affect us."
Harry nodded and began walking slowly forward, Superman at his side and holding the lead plate in front of him to help shield him from the radiation. At about 20 feet away they stopped, and Harry nodded to Superman, then pointed his wand at the kryptonite and said, "Reducio!" The kryptonite shrunk from a fist-sized lump to the size of a pea, then fell onto the ground in front of the hatch. Harry pointed his wand again and said, "Wingardium Leviosa!" and the pea-sized lump floated into the air, then slowly toward them, where the first lead plate lay. Harry landed the kryptonite in the middle of the plate. "Should I restore it back to its original size?" Harry asked Superman.
"You're the wizard, Harry," Superman replied "Whatever you think is best."
"I think so," Harry said. "I don't know what would happen if the spell wore off after we put the lead around it." By now it was obvious what Superman intended — he was going to embed the kryptonite between the two sheets of lead. "Engorgio!" he said, then felt a wave of nausea come over him as the crystal returned to its original size.
Superman had felt it as well. "The radiation decreased when it was smaller," he said, his voice sounding strained. "Now that it's back to its original size, the increased radiation is affecting us." He took the second plate and hit it several times in the center, forming a cavity. Harry winced with each blow, thinking about damage he'd do to his hands if he tried that — or at least would do, if he had none of Superman's powers. The Man of Steel then took the plate in both hands and tossed it gently toward the first one; it landed directly on top of the first plate and the chunk of kryptonite.
"Nice throw," Harry commented.
"Thanks," Superman replied. "Now to seal the plates together." As Harry watched, amazed, red beams seemed to emanate from Superman's eyes, moving around the edge of the plates, which softened and flowed together. Within a few seconds the two plates were welded together. Superman walked over, picked up the plates, and compressed the flat edges of the plates into a sphere. When it was done it looked like he was holding an oversized Bludger, one made out of lead instead of iron.
"There," he said, tossing the sphere into the air a few times, like a ball. He made it look effortless, but Harry knew a lead sphere of that size must weigh hundreds of pounds. "I can study this later, but we still have to get my ship out of here."
"Can't you just fly it out of here?" Harry wondered. "Or is it wrecked?"
Superman pondered for a moment. "It should still fly. If we're going to do that, though, we should probably take it where no one will find it."
"Where's that?" Harry asked.
"My fortress," Superman replied.
The interior of the spacecraft was arranged for the comfort of a single passenger, but Superman touched a few crystals set in what Harry guessed was the "control panel," and another seat formed next to the first one. Once Harry was seated, Superman nodded at him and reached forward to touch one of the crystal controls in front of them.
"Here we go," he said, and the ship shook momentarily as it lifted out of the crater it had dug. The ship moved upward, gaining altitude slowly, until they were about 100 feet in the air. "I'll be right back," Superman said, rising and walking to the hatch, which he'd replaced on the ship.
"Wait a minute!" Harry spun around to face him. "Where are you going?"
"I have to fill in the damage made by the ship, or someone's going to see it and wonder what made a skid mark that big and deep," Superman told him. He pointed to the view screen in front of Harry. "I've adjusted the forward view so you can watch me do it." His hand passed over a crystal stud and the hatch opened. Superman leaped out of it into the sky.
As Harry watched, spellbound by the performance, Superman pushed all of the dirt that had been displaced by the ship back into the ditch, until the only way to tell it had been there was a long patch of bare ground, devoid of any grass. Superman began remedying that as well, flying off to different areas and returning with patches of turf, which he trimmed to the same height as the surrounding grass, using his heat vision, and set in place, filling in the bare spot with grass.
When it was all finished, the area looked almost as it would have before the ship crashed there; the only thing that was different was the patches of burnt grass. Harry glanced at his watch — the entire operation had taken only about two minutes!
A few seconds later Superman returned to the ship through the hatch, closing it behind him. "That was pretty amazing," Harry remarked as the Man of Steel sat down beside him.
Superman gave him a diffident look. "It would have been better if I'd been able to bring the ship down where I'd wanted, instead of here. I missed by several thousand miles."
"Where were you planning to land?" Harry asked, curiously.
"In America," Superman said. "Near where I grew up."
"Where's that?" Harry asked automatically.
Superman gave him a wry smile and a slight shrug. "Oh, I get it," Harry said. "You don't want anyone to know, right?"
"Something like that." Superman glanced over the controls. "I think we'll make better time and avoid most of any radar detection if we make the trip above the atmosphere."
Harry blinked. "Where's your fortress at, anyway?" he asked.
"In Antarctica," Superman said. "We can be there in a few minutes, once I get us out of the atmosphere."
Harry felt the ship move upward, but the gentle push he felt did not match the view screen's display, which showed them rocketing upward a thousand miles in a matter of seconds. Superman touched another control and the ship began moving in a lateral direction; a display on the view screen showed their position on a map of the Earth. They were moving out over the Atlantic Ocean, then southward. As Harry watched the dot of light indicating their position, it moved slowly down the Atlantic, taking perhaps five minutes before it approached the large bay that faced the Atlantic.
"Luckily, it's night in the Antarctic right now," Superman said, touching another control. "We might be caught on some radar screens, but no one will be able to make a visual ID unless they're waiting for us where we land."
The ship began its descent. This time, Superman took it down slow, avoiding superheating the atmosphere with the ship's passage. A few minutes later, the ship touched down on the icy ground. "We're here," Superman said, simply.
"Thank you for flying Super-Air," Harry quipped. "I have to admit, though, that as fast as we were going, I still prefer my broom." A sudden though struck him. "Oh, no!" he said, smacking his forehead with his palm. "I forgot my broom!"
"No, it's here," Superman said, opening a compartment to show Harry where he'd stowed the Firebolt. "I picked it up on my way back to the ship after filling in the damage done by my last landing."
"Whew! I'm glad you did!" Harry said, gratefully. "I'd hate to lose this broom, it was given to me by my…godfather…" his voice trailed off.
Superman was looking at him, concern in his eyes. "Has something happened to your godfather, Harry?" he asked, quietly.
Harry nodded, once, a short jerk of his head. "Yeah. He died. About a week ago. He was — was killed by his own cousin, a foul, evil woman who enjoys torturing people!" Harry shook his head. "I don't want to talk about it anymore! It's bad enough it happened — thinking about it only makes me wonder what I could have done to stop it?"
"Harry, I'm sorry," Superman said, laying a hand on his shoulder. Harry looked up at the Man of Steel, his green eyes brimming with pain and sorrow. "I know it's hard losing someone you love. I lost my father when I was not much older than you, and it took me several months to cope with it. My mother is still alive, though, and I thought of her every day while I was gone." He turned away for a moment, looking pensive. "I should probably let her know I've returned. But we have a few things to do, first. Are you okay?"
Harry took a deep breath and nodded. "Yeah, I'll be fine, no problem." That was probably a lie but like Superman had said, he had to learn to cope with Sirius's death, just as Superman had done with his father's death.
Nodding, Superman turned to the hatch door and touched a crystal stud on the wall. The hatch opened, then expanded so that either of them could walk through it upright. Meanwhile, the hatch had extended itself into a ramp that reached the ground. "Follow me," he said to Harry, then stepped out onto the ramp.
Harry stepped out onto the ramp, and gasped once again. There were dozens, hundreds of crystal spires extending into the air, crisscrossing each other in a manner that seemed to form a roof of some sort. There were steps that led inside the crystal structure, steps Superman was walking briskly towards. "This — is your fortress?" Harry asked, awed by its size and sheer presence.
"My Fortress of Solitude," Superman said, with a small smile. "I moved it here before I left Earth; its location had become known to a few — well, crooks — and I did not want them to have access to it any more. It would be an arduous journey for most humans to reach it now, due to the mountains surrounding it."
"How cold is it in here?" Harry asked, looking around. His breath was visible as he spoke, as was Superman's, but the most he felt was a coolness on his bare skin.
"Since it's winter here, it's probably about 80 below zero right now," Superman estimated. "But I haven't set the climate inside the Fortress since I left. He walked over to a crystalline control panel and touched several crystals. Harry could feel the air around him growing warmer. Within a few moments any coolness he'd felt was gone. Now the temperature seemed perfect.
"I set it for about 70 degrees Fahrenheit," Superman told him. He crossed his arms, looking at Harry for a moment. "Now I think it's time for us to discuss what we're going to do about the powers that were transferred from me to you."
Harry just nodded. He had no idea how Superman was going to get his powers back, or if he even could get them back. "Whatever you want," he said to the Man of Steel. "But I think you ought to know, it also affected my magic as well."
"How?" Superman asked.
"It's a lot more powerful now," Harry said, taking out his wand. I was using this to spray water on the fires at the crash site, and it gushed out in gallons per second, not the small, steady stream I was expecting."
Superman nodded, thinking. "That might be a side effect of my powers, that they're super-energizing your magic as well."
"Well, it's funny you say that," Harry remarked, now that he'd had time to consider. "But even though I can do a lot more powerful magic than before, it actually feels like I have less magic in me, like I'm weaker than normal Oh —" Harry suddenly realized what that might mean. "Do you think some of my magical ability might have been transferred to you, Superman?"
"I don't know, Harry," the Man of Steel said, looking at his hands. "I don't feel any different than before, except for the drain on my powers. Do you have any way to test your idea?"
"I think so," Harry said, not sure if it would work. He knew the Human Revealing Charm was Homenum Revelio; but if he substituted the word for wizard, Veneficus, the charm might reveal only wizards and witches. "Let's see what happens — Veneficus Revelio!"
The tip of his wand flashed blue, and Superman began to glow blue as well. Harry noted he was glowing as well, though probably twice as brightly as Superman was. "I think that tears it," he said, ending the spell. "Some of my magical ability leeched off into you, somehow."
"I suppose that makes sense," Superman said, pondering the implications. "That's why we both feel weaker than normal with our respective abilities."
"But you don't know anything about using magic," Harry said, then shrugged. "Well, I guess I don't know anything about using your powers, either."
"We'll both have to be careful," Superman suggested. "Is it possible for me to perform magic without a wand?"
"Well, sometimes," Harry admitted. "But you have to be pretty upset or agitated before that happens. I got mad at my Aunt Marge once, and blew her up."
Superman frowned. "You mean she exploded?" he asked sharply.
"No, no," Harry explained quickly. "I mean she blew up like a big balloon, and floated away. The Ministry of Magic had to fetch her back and remove her memories of the experience. My uncle was very upset with me after that — she's his sister."
"I guess I can understand that," Superman said. He put his hands on his hips and looked around the Fortress for a moment. "Well, Harry, let's get starting showing you how your new powers work."
An old, old woman lay on her deathbed, smiling up at her loving husband. He looked down on her, his face showing concern and compassion, things her family said he did not possess. They were wrong, she knew — how else could he have loved her as he did? Even now, she could hear the other people in her extended family — her younger brothers, her children, her children's children, and probably her children's children's children, milling about outside her room, trying to convince her to let them in to see her, to tell her she was wrong when she knew she was right.
Downstairs, in the foyer of the Vanderworth home, a young woman with dark hair in a French maid's uniform dusted the display cases, pictures, and mirrors lining the walls. Every so often she would glance upward, listening to the efforts of Gertrude Vanderworth's many family members to gain entrance to her bedroom, to persuade her not to sign her fortune over to her new, younger husband.
In the sitting room adjoining Gertrude's bedroom, her two younger brothers were plotting post-Gertrude strategy over cold coffee and cigarettes.
The first brother, a long-retired medical doctor, fumed about their lost opportunities to have his older sister declared incompetent to make her own decisions. "We should have gotten guardianship the moment she started corresponding with that — that hoodlum!" he rasped, setting off a coughing fit. He was only two years younger than Gertrude — his only goal now was to make sure that if he wasn't going to get any of the Vanderworth fortune, neither would the man who'd married her three years ago, after his release from prison.
The second brother, an attorney, handed his older brother a handkerchief to cover his mouth while coughing. He was nearly as bad as Gertrude was, the lawyer thought privately, revolted at the decrepit state both his older brother and sister were in. At 75, fifteen years younger than Gertrude, he was still in relatively good health. When his brother stopped coughing, he said, "He doesn't have a prayer, anyway, even if he does get her to sign a new will. I'll get it tied up in probate for years, he'll never see a penny of her money."
"Good, good!" the older brother wheezed. "Conniving bastard!"
"Language!" one of his daughters said; her granddaughter was in the room. The older brother grunted but said nothing else.
"All the same," the younger brother muttered, almost to himself. "I'd like to get inside there and make sure she hasn't signed a new will, yet." He walked over to the door, motioning for silence, to see if he could hear anything. The door was solid wood and quite thick, but if you listened carefully you could hear Gertrude talking.
"In spite of your past," he heard her saying. "I know you're a good man." He snorted. She had no idea what the man she'd married three years ago was capable of. The lawyer gestured to one of his sons, also a lawyer, to come over and listen. His daughter came over as well, to hear what was going on.
"And all good men deserve a second chance…" Gertrude was saying. "From the moment I received you first letter, I knew you were not like the rest." His son and daughter looked at each other in disbelief. Did she not realize what that man had tried to do, years ago, to the western seaboard?
"You came from…nothing," Gertrude was saying. "And you worked so hard to get where you are…You might have made a few mistakes…"
"A few mistakes?" the daughter hissed. "She's gone senile!"
The elder lawyer banged on the polished wood of her bedroom door. "Gertrude, for God's sake!" he yelled.
"Gertrude, let us in!" his son shouted, banging on the door as well.
Inside the room, Gertrude's husband smiled at her family's feeble attempts to stop him from doing what he'd already accomplished. The last signature would merely be icing on the cake, as it were. He looked back at Gertrude, still gushing praise for him. But he could already hear the death-rattle in her voice. If he was going to get that last signature, it would have to be soon. "You said that if I helped you get out of prison, you'd take care of me," she murmured.
"Mm-hmm," he said. For the past three years, you old crone.
"And you have," she continued. "You've shown me pleasures that I've never known." Luthor nodded, still remembering the revulsion he'd felt when doing…what he'd done. But the next thing she said, as he brought out the final papers for her to sign, made him forget everything he'd had to go through in the past three years, to get to this point.
"That's why you deserve…everything," she wheezed, as Lex slipped a fountain pen into her hand and positioned it where she was to sign.
"I love you, Lex Luthor," she said, feeling at once peaceful and tired. At last, after ninety years, she was ready to move on. Her hand moved, with his help, signing her name, until she felt her last breath slip away.
As the old crone died, Lex suppressed a grimace. She had only signed her first name! Well, he hadn't spent all that time in prison exchanging letters with her for nothing. He'd also spent a fair amount of time learning to copy her signature. He added "Vanderworth" after her first name, then pocketed the fountain pen.
He glanced toward the foot of the bed, where her two little dogs were lying. "Goodbye, you two mutts," he whispered. He pulled the wedding ring off his finger and dropped it into a glass containing her teeth. He glanced at the signature on the document he held. It should hold up, he thought. It was not as if they could ask her whether she'd signed it or not, could they?
Outside, Gertrude's family were still trying to get into the room. "Gertrude, let us in!" he heard them calling. "He doesn't love you!" another one said. "He's a crook!" "He's a monster!" a woman's voice screeched. Luthor smiled. Oh, if only they knew the monstrous plans he had in mind for Gertrude's money…
When he opened the door they all fell back in shock, staring at him as he stepped into the doorway. Luthor looked around the room at the hate-filled eyes of the Vanderworth family, a family now wondering how much trouble it was going to take if he'd managed to get her to sign a new will.
A little girl on his right glared malevolently at him. Smiling at her, Luthor plucked off his brown hairpiece and dropped it into her lap. "You can keep that," he said, watching as her eyes grew large with fear. "The rest," he said to the others, as the little girl began screaming, "is mine."
"You won't get away with this, Luthor!" the elder lawyer growled, as Luthor stepped past him. "We'll contest any changes to her last will as made under duress, or while not competent! We'll tie up the estate for years! You'll never see a damned penny of it!"
"A will?" Luthor repeated, looking surprised. "She had a will? She and I never discussed any changes to it, actually. However, what we have been discussing, over the past three years, was setting up TOD and JTROS clauses on all of her investments and properties."
The elder lawyer and his son both blanched. "What does that mean?" the lawyer's daughter asked, shrilly. "What did he do?"
The younger lawyer answered. "Transfer-on-Death and Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship," he said, looking bleakly at his sister. "It means he owns anything that has those clauses added to the account or deed."
"And that means everything," Luthor said. He held up the final document. "This gives me clear title to the mansion and all her personal property within it. When the younger lawyer tried to grab it from his hand, Luthor snatched it away. "Ah-ah!" he said, wagging a finger at the man. "You can read it after my attorney has filed the necessary paperwork."
He walked on through the crowded room, stopping at the door and turning to face them. "I'd like to tell you all what an interesting three years it's been, but I doubt if you'd believe me, especially since you're all now pretty much destitute."
"What do you mean," one of Gertrude's granddaughter said, a middle-aged woman who'd been scowling furiously at him ever since he appeared at the mansion three years ago, when he finally got out of jail. "We all have accounts, worth millions!"
"But," Luthor added. "They all had Gertrude's name on them as primary account holder, and she was able to change the TOD clauses on them." The granddaughter's face went white as she realized the implications.
"Now, I hate to pillage and run," Luthor said, jovially, "But I do have places to be and people to see, so I hope you'll excuse me. However, a few of my…security personnel...will be arriving momentarily, to escort you all to the door, and make sure none of the silverware gets carried out or anything of that sort, if you know what I mean." Luthor stepped out of the doorway, into the hall.
As if on cue, four men strode into the room. All four were carrying police batons and pistols. "Everybody outta the house!" the biggest one shouted, as two of the other men began herding people toward the door. The fourth man waited at the top of the stairs leading to the main foyer and entrance. "Hands in pockets!" the big man shouted, over the screams of the Vanderworth clan. "If we see a hand with somethin' in it, we bust that hand!" The man in front led everyone down the stairs, then pointed to the front door, which stood open; the young woman in the French maid uniform stood beside it, beckoning them to pass through. The last person down was the elder brother, the retired doctor — two of the men had guided his wheelchair rather unceremoniously down the steps and out the front door.
"Make sure everyone leaves, Brutus," Luthor told the big man. "Then have Stanford wait for the coroner. We want to make sure the old lady's death is recorded, everything by the book." Brutus nodded, grinning, and went downstairs.
Luthor followed at leisure, looking at the various paintings and statues that littered the hallways of Gertrude's — and now his — mansion. He could appreciate fine art, but he also appreciated the amount of money that could be realized from selling them. Petty cash, really, compared to what was now available to him, but not long from now, he'd have something much more precious than all the money and fine art in the world.
Kitty, the young woman in the French maid's uniform, whom Luthor had brought into the Vanderworth household six months ago, was his newest female associate. After two years in prison, and over two years of living with Gertrude Vanderworth, he was more than ready for a little female companionship, even one as young as Miss Kowalski. What she lacked in intelligence, she more than made up in…companionship.
She was standing there, feather duster in hand, at the bottom of the steps, a small smile on her lips as she waited for him to say what she knew he would, after all this time.
"We're done," he said, walking past her, and she turned and followed him out the front door, pausing only long enough to remove her maid's cap and drop it on the floor, along with the feather duster.
Outside, she stood beside Lex as he watched his four accomplices directing the Vanderworth clan off the estate. "What now, Lex?" she asked.
"Now," Luthor said, a smile creasing his features. "It's time to get busy."
"Is that all you can think about?" Kitty said, a bit annoyed.
He looked at her, an eyebrow raised in surprised. "I don't mean that," he said. "We have a lot to prepare for — I've been planning this since before I got out of prison. Now, are you ready to go, or do you want to stay here with rest of the relics?"
Kitty shivered. Sometimes Lex could be so…cold. Other times… He was like fire and ice. Perhaps that was what attracted her to him. That, and the intelligence. "I'm ready to go, Lex."
"Good," he said, opening the door to the Bentley that he'd picked out of Gertrude's stable of classic vehicles. He climbed in behind her and said to the driver, Grant, "Let's go see our new yacht."