Author's notes: HUGE 'AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2' SPOILERS AND ALTERNATIVE ENDING! After seeing the new movie I was torn between bawling over Gwen and laughing over the England references. But these together led to the obvious question: if Peter had managed to catch Gwen and follow her to Oxford, what would their adventures have been like? Who would they have run into?
For while America might have superheroes, England has something a wee bit more magical.
General Disclaimer: Not J.K. Rowling, not Stan Lee, and not about to make any in-plot cameos.
"—and that's why the rumours aren't true." Auror Orla Quirke finished her short summary, squirming in her seat. Her partner, Auror Euan Abercrombie, wasn't doing much better. Still, the latter was rather distracted from his worry by the snitch persistently buzzing around his face. "At least, I don't think so."
The Head Auror stared scrutinisingly at them a moment more before blinking away. "You're telling me." He said slowly. "That you have no idea what happened with Zabini, except that there was no invisibility cloak involved? Quirke, are you absolutely sure you don't want a further medical evaluation?"
"Euan said it was too fast for someone wearing a cloak, and yes, I'm fine. I feel fine." Orla quietly stated, poking Euan's side to try to get him to stop swatting at the flying object. "It wasn't anyone in the crowd either. They were all muggles and…look. I'd love to tell you that we took down Zabini, but it wasn't us who did it. It was as though the air itself stopped him!"
"Enough with these summaries." Their boss let out a weary sigh, putting the medical issue on the side as the auror wasn't pale and didn't seem about to collapse. "I've done enough debriefings already to know you two were the only ones at the scene. Tell me what happened from the beginning and—oh, for Merlin's sake!" Reaching out over his desk, the man easily snatched the snitch away from where Euan had been flailing with it. "Abercrombie, hero or not, this is exactly why you don't prod shiny objects!"
"Sorry, sir." Euan flushed, settling down. The Head Auror flicked the snitch off and laid it down amidst the various bits of parchment, quills, and enchanted items on the table's surface. "But Orla's right. I couldn't see anything! One moment I was fighting Zabini, the next he was on the ground—"
"From the beginning." The Head Auror repeated, rubbing at an incoming headache. "You were Team 3, posted outside in Trafalgar Square?"
"That's right," Orla nodded, slightly more at ease now that a snitch wasn't attacking her partner, "sitting by the fountain between the National Portrait Gallery and Nelson's Monument. We'd been there for hours because of the intelligence the Yard had on Zabini—"
"I know. You were supposed to watch for them, not engage them." Their boss took one look at their guilty faces and sighed. "I also know that Team 1 made the call and for very good reasons. Don't get me wrong, all of the teams did fine work in the face of a mounted opposition. With the others singing your praises I was especially impressed by how you two stepped up when your commanding officers were incapacitated, particularly due to the hostage situation." He paused as they smiled proudly. "But that was before you came in and told me that you didn't actually take down Zabini. So again: what the hell happened?"
Euan's grin slid off his face as quickly as it had come. "Err, well, Orla and I spent the first few hours…discussing…"
"Tactical arrangements." Orla cut in. "While surveying the square, of course."
"Course." Euan quickly nodded along. The Head Auror threw them an unimpressed glance, clearly stating that he knew from experience exactly how they'd spent their abundant amount of free time…
Hours earlier in Trafalgar Square:
"I'mmm…sssooo…booorrreeed." Euan groaned, fingers idly swirling in the fountain. "Why'd we get this assignment?"
"Because half the ranks are bloody well out here." Orla testily breathed. This was going on their second hour of surveillance and while she very much agreed with her partner's rants, his chatter was what was truly getting under her skin. "Abercrombie, for the sake of my sanity, could you not act like a hyperactive child?"
Even though she was turned away from him, she would bet anything that he stuck her tongue out at her back. "What, you aren't bored out of your mind?"
"I've had longer stake-outs."
"Yeah, but those are stake-outs." His voice lowered. "High tension and anticipation, the very opposite of boring! But this? It's waiting for a needle to materialise in a haystack. No, it's worse than that. It's like watching flobberworms eat. You keep looking and waiting as they slowly chew on cabbage, bite by bite by bite…though they don't actually have teeth, but that's beside the point…"
"Merlin help me." Orla mumbled, but her companion took little notice (or was merely by this) and continued to talk. Blocking out his ramblings about magical creatures, she continued gazing around the square.
It was a cold, blustery day, so the area wasn't as crowded as it normally was in late August. There was a larger crowd nearer to the National Portrait Gallery, but other auror teams were stationed inside the gallery itself, so covering the entire area wasn't an issue.
Orla almost hoped that something suspicious would happen to break the monotony, yet this afternoon was quiet. After so many hours spent people-watching it was easy to tell the Londoners from the rest of the pedestrians, for the former were mainly hurrying to and fro between Tube stations, collars pulled up and gazing warily at the greying sky. In contrast the tourists lingered about, cameras snapping as they defied the wind or threatening rain from ruining their vacation.
Though the weather wasn't fantastic, since it hadn't yet turned into a downpour Trafalgar Square was by no means empty. There were plenty of people lounging around: eating their lunches, checking maps, or snickering at the aforementioned tourists who hadn't quite grasped the concept of British wind and had unwisely opened their umbrellas.
There was also a steady flow to and from where the aurors were sitting. While some people only paused to snap a picture of the towering fountain, or were parents racing to stop their kids from playing in the icy water, there were a few others who were lingering on the circular stone ledge-turned-seat. These latter groups were mainly twenty-somethings, uni students who were scribbling on notebooks, grabbing hurried bites of granola bars, or making doe eyes at each other.
Orla's attention was drawn to one of the couples seated only a few feet away when a blonde girl let out a sudden shriek. The auror looked more closely at the two, only relaxing when she realised that the brown-haired boy was just tickling the girl. Yet she kept her attention on them, partly due to boredom but mainly because Euan was now jabbering away about some absurd thing called 'drop bears'.
"—oh my god, stop! Stop, you idiot!" The girl was now laughing, trying to 'playfully' shove the boy away. Orla blinked, registering her American accent and Oxford sweatshirt in vague surprise. "Not fair! You can't use…use…hahah!…my ticklishness against me. It's below the…hahahah!…belt!"
"I'll stop when you say it." The boy only grinned back, not stopping in his tickling frenzy. Orla idly noted that he also sounded American. She'd take a guess that they were from the States, judging from how loudly their regular speaking voices seemed to be. "Come on Gwen, it's adorable. It is."
Gwen mock-glared at him, eyes narrowing as she pulled out of reach. "You want to make fun of me."
"Me?" He gave a disbelieving gasp.
"Yes, you." She repeated without any guilt. "You aren't recording this?"
"Would I do that?"
"Yes. Definitely yes." But Gwen now gave a sigh. What came out next was a strangled mix of an English, Irish, and Australian accent that made Orla wince and look away. "A'ight, you git. 'ere's some…ah…Cockney. Eh blimey?"
There was a muffled sound of laughter before a slap cut it off, causing Orla to peer back over at them.
"HEY!" The boy was rubbing his arm, looking at the annoyed girl with more surprise than actual pain. "What was that for?"
"For laughing at me!" Gwen paused, her irritation shifting into vague embarrassment. "Okay, yeah. Fine. I know it's awful. I'm still working on it."
"What? No, what are you talking about? It was great." The boy promptly forgot about his arm and smiled at the girl. "Really adorable. Almost as good as your cackling laugh."
"The 'rules' again? We never even finished those." Gwen rolled her eyes, a light flush still across her features. "If you're going to make fun of me than I'm adding a new one. You are—from now until I decide otherwise—banned from making those big doe eyes at me. Oh no, don't give me that, you know exactly what I'm talking about! You're doing it right now! What? No, don't do it again. This doesn't make you charming or—oomph!"
Orla smiled and looked away after the boy kissed her mid-rant. Feeling a vague happiness after that overheard scene, she returned to scanning the area. She also reluctantly tuned back into her partner. But in hearing a snatching bit of conspiracy theory about how the Loch Ness Monster was cousins to Hogwarts' giant squid, she felt no more qualms in again ignoring the 'conversation'.
So it was that a dull period slowly passed. At the five minute mark Orla found herself torn between whether to cast a silencing charm on Euan or on the now deeply snogging couple next to them. She was tugged towards the latter, for while they were muggles and an admittedly cute couple, the noises they were making…weren't exactly comfortable to listen to.
"Hey Euan." Orla interrupted his repeated song of, 'I don't see a little silhouette of a man, I am bored! I am Bored! Will you do the fandango? Thunderbolt and lightning, very very boring!' "Rather than make up melodies, how about you walk the perimeter?"
Euan's song cut off as he looked at her in shock. "'Make up melodies'? That's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'! Whoa, you purebloods are seriously deprived…"
"Perimeter. Now." Orla hissed, patience snapping and crackling. Though she did immediately sigh at her harsh tone. "Look, sorry. I just really need a moment of silence. So could you please go sing your, ah, Bohemia thing somewhere else for a bit? Go onto radio if you spot anything."
Though annoyed at first, Euan gave an understanding smile with her apology. Still, as he began to stand he gave her a pointed look. "I'll head off, but first thing back at the office you're listening to Queen. 'Bohemia thing'? Jesus Christ. I really hope you're joking."
Orla blinked, staring at him without comprehension. But he just groaned again, muttered something about muggle culture, and walked away. She was left in relative silence. Though she was confused about what just happened and what it had to do with royalty or with her being a pureblood, she was grateful for some peace. Or at least, an increased tranquility.
She returned to gazing around, trying to avoid looking at the continuing public display of affection.
After ten minutes the sounds of snogging at last lessened and Orla was given a reprieve, for she was seconds from growing annoyed enough to toss the Statute of Secrecy out the window with a well-aimed silencio.
"Hey." Gwen's voice drifted over, breathless but concerned. "What are you—"
"Just, just wait a sec." The boy's words were definitely worried. This was enough for Orla to glance back over at them. She noted that the girl's sweatshirt was off and that their hair was messier than before. The boy was also peering up at the portrait gallery.
Gwen followed his gaze, paling as she looked back at him. Her voice became softer, so much so that Orla missed it. All she could spot was the girl's hand reaching over to grasp his fingers.
The boy shrugged at whatever she said, the volume of his voice remaining normal. Orla caught him glancing at her and shifted her gaze elsewhere. "No I…I think I've lost my wallet. Really stupid. So stupid. I'll go search in the, ah, cafe. You could stay here and—"
"No, no. I'll come with you." Gwen cut him off firmly. Though Orla didn't look back at them, there was a hurried ruffling as the couple gathered their stuff and abruptly left.
Orla chewed her lip as she watched the two of them race off towards the gallery. Yet barely a minute later her suspicions were laid to the side when a voice whispered in her ear.
"This is Team 1!" The auror on the other end of the radio connection said hurriedly, as though he was running flat out. "Zabini and two others on foot out the main steps. They threw something at McLaggen; take them down! One in custody but two paintings on suspects, neither object minimised due to spells. Repeat: switch from surveillance to capture! Keep magic to a minimum; is anti-apparation up? Where's Bones?"
"Team 2." An even wearier voice broke in. "They just got past us. Bones' also unconscious. Quirke's in command is she's still there."
"Quirke and Team 3 copy." Orla whispered, already on her feet and jogging towards the large stairs. She tried to keep her panic at the sudden leadership at bay, not having expected both Senior Aurors to be out of play this mission. Her wand slid from her wrist holster into her hand. "Abercrombie, where are you?"
"By the Monument." Euan's voice huffed through the radio as he ran. "Meet you by the steps!"
"Teams 4 and 5," Orla continued whispering, eyes scanning the bigger crowd by the art galleries as she rapidly approached them, "are Underground entrances secure?"
"All good here."
"Anti-apparation?" Orla silently cursed as the moments passed without answer. Glancing around at the hurrying people she clenched her wand tighter, tension churning through her body. "Does anyone have confirmation from that team? Or a description of our culprits?"
"Damn it. Okay, okay." Her thoughts raced as she tried to figure out what to do next. "4, call for anti-appa's back-up. 5, contact HQ for anyone they can spare and a squad of obliviators. Teams 1 and 2, floo the injured out. Whoever's left in the last two, stay in the gallery in case of a second wave."
Chimes of agreement rung in her ears, but all she could feel was her heart in her throat. Scaling around the crowd as she raced up the wide and lengthy staircase, she kept her gaze peeled not only for the suspects but for any wide containers; anything large enough to hold a rolled painting.
Orla's glance skidded from oversized purse to laptop bag, fingers growing clammy around her wand as the seconds passed. When she heard rushing footsteps behind her, she twisted around and was a moment from pouncing before realising that it was a breathless Euan.
"Any…spotting?" He puffed out, leaning against the railing and clutching at a stitch. The two had only just reached the top of the staircase, where the red banners around the gallery's grand entranceway swung in the continuing wind.
"No." Orla replied shortly, returning to scanning the oblivious crowd. She came to immediate attention at a slamming sound, and though Euan let out a soft curse she heard him follow her own rushing self towards the disturbance. Finding an even thicker crowd blocking her way she struggled to squeeze past to get to whatever they were gawking at. Euan had better luck (perhaps because of his short stature), and she heard his shout from ahead of her. "Police! Everyone, back away!"
Edging by a group of teenagers, Orla was finally able to spot what was going on. A man in dark clothes lay crumpled on the floor, hands tied to the bannister with some sort of white material. Euan was leaning over him, putting away a paper he'd been flashing at the crowd. The auror was gently lifting a canvas container that was lying next to the suspect, putting the strap around his own shoulder.
"Police!" Orla echoed, briskly walking the last few steps while likewise displaying her psychic paper. Keeping to the side of her partner she quickly surveyed the scene, failing to spot anything else suspicious aside from the shifting crowd and the randomly unconscious man. She flicked her communicator back on, speaking in the barest of whispers. "Possibly one more suspect captured on the outer platform."
"Found him unconscious but breathing." Euan's whisper responded over the line main. "One painting's on him. There's some sort of…something…on his hands. I'm tying him up."
"All teams," Quirke cut back in, leaving Euan with the suspect to pace through the crowd, "I want news of any of the following: Bones' and McLaggen's conditions, Teams 4, 5, and anti-apparation signing in, any word on back-ups, and whether there's been further spots of Zabini or the last painting."
"Team 4, no activity here."
"Team 5: back-up's coming through this way. They're going slow because of the muggles; they're five minutes from the gallery."
"I'm at Mungo's with Bones and McLaggen. They're fine, bumps to the head. No other victims."
What then followed was radio silence.
"Anti-apparation? Zabini?" Orla mentally cursed, still scanning the curious crowd to no avail. "Why am I not surprised. Alright, I want Teams 1 and 2 to—"
"Not so fast." An actual whisper sounded in her ear. Though Orla froze, it wasn't because of the sudden, ominous voice. Rather, it was due to the unmistakeable feel of a wand jabbing her back. "That's right, stay calm. Let's back up while you tell your team that I don't want to hurt you."
Orla swallowed thickly, looking over her shoulder and spotting the handsome face of Blaise Zabini. One of his arms swung around her waist while his other hand continued to rest against her back. "—Quirke here. I've been compromised. Do not approach; I repeat, do not approach. Cut my channel out of the main stream."
"Good girl." Zabini chuckled softly. Orla's attention was on Euan, who had jerked up (away from the prisoner who was now in proper handcuffs rather than tied to the bannisters) and was staring at her with something akin to horror. "Now hand me your wand, handle pointed towards me. I wouldn't try to cast something if I were you."
Orla bit her lip, all-too aware of the weapon indenting her coat. "Where's the second painting, Zabini?"
"None of your concern." Was the prompt response. The two were now walking against the bannister, slowly making their way back towards the main staircase. "Wand, now."
"Don't you want to bargain for your partner?"
"Not especially." Zabini leaned in even closer, breath hot against her skin. "Nor am I a fan of stalling. I've given you your chance: imperio. Confundo. Imperio. Confundo. Imperio."
Orla instantly felt a binding but utterly incredible fogginess fall over her thoughts. Legs giving way beneath her, she barely noticed stumbling back against her captor. The wand was moved from her back as he twisted her around, her limp head falling against his shoulder as he clasped her in a parody of an embrace.
"There, there." Zabini tutted, mumbling against her cheek. "I know, this is confusing for you. But all you have to do is listen to my voice: reinitiate radio contact."
"Hello." This time Orla didn't bother with whispering into the communicator. Any concern of being overheard had vanished with a wisp, and if pressed she wouldn't be certain if she was speaking to herself, Zabini, or into the radio. Everything had become blurry and murky, and all she knew was that she'd keep floating on this lovely cloud as long as she said the right things. "I'm…I'm…Quirke. Orla. Command override; reinstate my radio. Please?"
A blur of chaotic voices instantly hit her, but she only had ears for Zabini's soft, soothing voice.
"Perfect, love." He leaned them up against the bannister, brushing her loose hair back with a smile. "Now, I need you to repeat everything that I say."
"Perfect, love. I need you to repeat everything that I say." Orla spoke lightly into the radio, the channel having grown deathly quiet as all realised the situation. Her tongue became rather muddied with the words, but everything was still all-too clear.
"This is Blaise Zabini." He glanced about the crowd, carefully moving the swaying woman in front of him. "I have Orla Quirke under two condundus charms and three imperius curses. That she hasn't lost her mind is nothing short of astounding, but there's plenty of time for that."
"This is Blaise Zabini." Orla repeated, voice dreamy and uncertain. She blinked slowly, fog drenching her thoughts and sinking into her every muscle. "I have Orla Quirke under two condundus charms and three imperius curses. That she hasn't lost her mind is nothing short of astounding, but there's plenty of time for that."
"I'd kill her," Zabini continued pleasantly, cupping her chin with his hand, "but a hostage can be useful. So here's the trade: her life for my associate and the painting."
"I'd kill her," Orla began to say, "but a hostage can be useful. So here's the trade: her life for my asso—" her voice stumbled, drawing a frown from Zabini, "asso—"
"Orla, pet," his fingers dug into her skin, "say the line verbatim."
"So here's the trade:" Orla began again, "her life for my associ—cia—aaa—aahhh. No." Blinking rapidly against the fog, realisation jabbed into the forefront for a mere moment. But that was all the time she needed to sever the curses. Flailing back and half-over the bannister, her thoughts reemerged with a terrified rush as she screamed into the radio. "NO! Don't give him anything!"
"So you're feisty." Zabini sneered as Orla scrambled further back along the wide concrete banister, her body screaming out protests against every twitching movement. His wand was now openly drawn and pointed at her. The crowd of muggles was now mainly falling back in confusion and some fright, though a few teenagers were getting out their cameras gleefully. "Crucio!"
Orla pressed herself against a stone column, the spell arching inches from her. She shook her head frantically to dispel the curses, but they still sunk to her mind and muscles with a thick sogginess. "All teams to the staircase! Zabini's armed and dang—AH!" She thudded to her side to avoid another cacophony of spells. She clung onto the column to keep her shaking limbs from falling over to the concrete a story below. The only thing saving her was that Euan had drawn Zabini's fire away by jumping into the madness.
"Quirke, we can't get a good aim around you and the others." An apologetic voice sounded in her ear.
"Who cares!" She growled, numb terror now giving way to fury. Drawing her wand she cursed as her fingers continued to shake. Her adrenaline spiked as she noticed a hand reaching and pulling for hers, but relaxed in recognising the blonde girl from earlier.
"Oh my god, are you okay?!" Gwen tugged Orla back over the railings to rejoin the now panicking crowd, who were now rushing every which way to get away from the fight. "That guy, did he drug you or—"
"Thank you." Orla said gratefully, half-leaning against the stone as the girl stared at her worriedly. "But you, you have to get out of here! I'll be fine."
"You aren't fine!" The American said in disagreement, in a way suggesting that she'd had similar conversations in the past. "You can barely stand. Lean on me and we'll get out—"
"I'm with the police." Orla groaned, looking worriedly at Euan struggling with Zabini in the distance, their images fluttering in and out as the screaming crowd raced by. She shook her head again, trying to focus on the haze of shapes and colours. "I have to go, but thanks!"
"But you—" whatever Gwen's protest was was cut off as Orla scrambled off, clicking her radio back on.
"Shoot stunners!" Orla cried out to the other teams, glancing around but still only seeing the swaying forms of Euan, the two criminals, and the panicking muggles.
"We can't!" The auror on the other end tried to explain. "Not from so far away. A few spells on CCTV is bad enough, but what would look like mini-missiles—"
"THEN GET UP HERE!" Orla shrieked. Ignoring her now clumsy balance she rushed towards the fighting. Yet in pointing her wand at Zabini as she neared, she blinked: his body glimmered in and out of focus. But no, was that Zabini? Now it looked like Euan…
"Freaking confunduses." Orla groaned, clenching her fingers around her wand while rapidly shaking her head to try once again to clear it. "Alright Quirke, focus. Focus! Just look at Zabini and…great. Fantastic. Now there are two of them!"
"Ah, Quirke?" A confused voice sounded in her ear as she realised she'd left her radio on. "What are you talking about?"
"My vision's impaired." Orla snapped back, in no mood to deal with this. She scrutinised the ongoing duel, but the two figures were still swaying together in her head. "You try being hit by multiple imperios and confunduses! I can't bloody well take the shot because I can't tell who's who!"
Back in the present:
Silence fell in the office.
The Head Auror's eyes narrowed at the hefty pause, glancing back and forth between the two of them. "What happened next? Quirke, are you absolutely sure you don't want a medical leave of absence? I know St. Mungo's cleared you, but—"
"I'm fine." Orla repeated with a sigh, feeling like a broken record. "Honestly. Zabini shook me up but the curses' effects vanished hours ago."
"If you're sure." Her boss' expression was still creased with concern. "Merlin, fighting off five of those things at once? I have to say, I'm more than impressed."
Orla's mouth dropped open (Euan lightly sniggered at her expression, breaking up the tense atmosphere). "But, sir! You, you—"
"Have never fought off multiple imperiuses and confunduses." The Head Auror said bluntly. "You do realise how many rumours are now circulating about you two?"
Euan's laughter instantly died off. "Wait. Both of us? Sir, I didn't do anything amazing."
The older man looked at him askance. "Duelling one of Britain's most dangerous criminals single-handedly while saving your partner's life in the process? Abercrombie, you and I have very different definitions of 'amazing'."
Orla and Euan were now blushing at the unexpected praise, both having felt they'd bolloxed things up with letting at least one criminal get away with the second painting.
"But you two becoming legends isn't what we're meant to be discussing." The Head Auror continued, slightly teasing though still mainly serious. "What isn't clear to me is how Zabini was captured. No other teams were able to approach, Quirke was fighting off the spells, and Abercrombie, you said earlier that you didn't take him down?"
"No sir." Euan swallowed hoarsely. "This is going to sound a bit mental…"
"I'm used to madness." His boss leaned forward, clasping his hands on top of the parchment littering his desk. "Try me."
"…Zabini tripped." Euan at last said, shrugging despairingly as though he didn't even believe it himself. "Though not really 'tripped'. One moment we were firing spells at each other as I was trying but failing to move us away from the muggles. The next second he fired wide, his arm kind of moving up and out? Zabini then just blinked at his hand; I think both of us simultaneously realised that his wand had vanished."
"'Vanished'?" The Ministry official echoed. "The wand wasn't found on him or the scene. You're certain you didn't disarm him?"
"Positive." Euan nodded furiously. "But that's not the strangest part! So I got out of my surprise and began to fire again, but before I could Zabini just kind of—yelped. Not a pained yelp. It was like he was shocked at something? Then his arm went sort of like this," he reached his own right hand up and twirled it around, causing him to half-twist in his chair, "causing him to pivot on the spot, both arms going behind him before he…well…tripped. On the air. Then he landed flat on his face, hands tied up."
The Head Auror stared at him, breathing out a low exhale. "You didn't shoot him with anything?"
"There was no one behind or around Zabini who could have incapacitated him?"
Euan hesitated. "Probably not? There were muggles everywhere, a lot of them weren't able to get away until the Obliviators calmed things down. Some were still behind him."
"A crowd of muggles." Their boss looked up at the ceiling contemplatively. "You said Zabini was 'tied up'?"
"Yeah." Euan shrugged. "That's what really confused me. His hands and wrists were bound together with the same sort of white, cobwebby stuff that was on the other criminal."
The Head Auror's eyes widened during the last part, looking back at the two partners as bewildered realisation shone through. "A cobwebby substance? Both suspects were tied up with webs? Why am I only hearing about this now!"
"I—I think we're the only ones who knew?" Euan glanced uncertainly at a ruffled Orla. He took out two vials from his pocket and placed them on the desk. "Sorry sir, it's my fault. I didn't recognise the thing and was concerned it was…poison? Something dangerous? I took a sample of it, before vanishing the rest and magically binding the first guy. After I helped Orla over I did the same to Zabini. I'm sorry, I wasn't sure what to do…"
"It's fine, you did the right thing." His boss said reassuringly, taking up the vials with an inspecting gaze. "You followed protocol. For all you knew this was something that would allow them to escape."
Euan relaxed at these words, though his curiosity lingered. "Is that what it does?"
"Nope." The Head Auror answered simply, turning one of the vials over in his fingers while gazing at the curling spiderwebs inside. He shook it: the webs failed to break apart. "It's not poison either, but you had no way of knowing this. Like I said before, both of you did outstanding work. With the attack sprung on us, getting even some of the culprits would have been a victory. But snagging Zabini? Interrogation will be having a field day."
Orla still fidgeted. "Sir, we didn't actually get Zabini…"
"You did get him." Their boss corrected, carefully setting down the vial. "You managed to bring in one of the most wanted criminals, overcoming astounding odds to do so. However, since something else did take him down I will have to rethink my initial intention of giving you both awards." He paused; the two before him slunk down but nodded in agreement. "Still, you took charge of the situation and proved your leadership skills; not to mention showcasing astounding bravery and talent in the process. My personal pride in you both aside, I think the other aurors would revolt if I didn't promote you both for your impressive work, as well as for your previous successful missions."
The partners sat up straighter at this, expressions brightening.
"Write up your full reports, though take your time. My offer of a temporary paid leave is still on the table." The Head Auror let his serious stance slip into an easy grin. "Really, relax. You were up against a nearly unwinnable situation and came out of it with most of the criminals and without any fatalities. You also managed to gain valuable information." His gaze strayed to the vials once again before looking back up. "Auror Quirke, being thrust into leadership is never an easy task. But you rose to the challenge and tried to make the best out of a situation that was falling apart. Auror Abercrombie, you were a major reason why this breakdown didn't lead to any casualties or a significant rupture of the Statute of Secrecy. You should both be exceedingly proud of your work."
Orla felt a flush grow and saw that Euan wasn't doing much better. "Thank—thank you, sir."
"I think we're about done here. I'll call a Senior Auror meeting to go over the many problems this 'ambush' pointed out," the man paused, an odd expression crossing his face, "particularly concerning the wayward anti-apparation team. I would appreciate if you two would keep these vials and how Zabini was actually captured under wraps. For the time being, it's need-to-know."
"Of course!" Orla squeaked, still embarrassed from the unexpected praise. Noticing that Euan had been struck speechless by the turn of events she pulled him from his chair, tugging them both away from the high ranking Ministry official. "We won't say a word. Thank you, sir!"
The door was hurriedly shut behind them.
The Head Auror gazed after them for a moment. He then let out a slow breath, grin falling. Drawing his wand he tapped his desk. "Taylor?"
"Yes?" His secretary instantly answered.
"Could you send Ron Weasley in here? He should be in his office." He drummed his seat's armrest in thought. "Please call all other available Senior Aurors to the main conference room, say for half an hour from now. Priority one protocol. In addition, I want Orla Quirke's medical report on my desk as soon as possible."
"Right away." She answered back, the soft sound of quick writing coming through.
"Thank you. Oh, wait. Can you also contact the American Ministry? I need to talk to a representative of theirs right away, preferably one stationed in the New York office."
"I'll set it up. If they're available soon, would you like to make this before or after your meeting with the Senior Aurors?"
The man paused. "After; I have a few things to check. Thanks again Taylor."
"Not a problem." The line was cut off with a snap.
Wand still in hand the Head Auror said another spell, once again waving it at the desktop. Thumb-notes of the latest world headlines instantly streamed down onto his desk, opaque enough to be visible even against the messy surface of parchment and magical objects. One flick later and the wizarding news sources were tossed to the side. With another wand swish, the European papers were sidelined as North America came to the forefront. Highlighting these and pulling up the East Coast, in short time the desk was filled with panicked proclamations of a missing superhero and small shots of a soaring man in a red and blue suit.
A knock pulled the man from his thoughts. Jerking his head up he saw Senior Auror Ron Weasley waltz in, a curious look in place.
"Hey mate. What are you…" Ron's words hedged off as he caught his friend's expression, "…Harry, why are you grinning at me like that?"
"A grin?" Head Auror Harry Potter raised an eyebrow. "What grin?"
The redhead's confusion shifted to suspicion. "Oh no. No! Whatever you're about to say, nope. Nuh-uh. Not going to happen. Whenever you give That Grin it ends with us running for our lives or mum bailing us out of gaol!"
"Don't be melodramatic. It's not that bad." Harry's 'grin' didn't diminish. In fact, his next words only grew in cheekiness. "But if this does end up like the dragon egg fiasco, I promise to pull some strings to keep us out of Azkaban. Alright?"
"Git." Though the insult was said with faint fondness, Ron's growing suspicions didn't diminish with his best mate's joke. "No, this isn't 'alright'. What are you talking about?"
"Well…" the be-speckled man began, but was quickly cut off when his friend spotted the headlines and photos still open on the desk.
"Harry," the redhead closed his eyes as though praying for patience, "tell me you're doing light reading and that that has nothing to do with a case?"
"Sorry, but no." Though Harry did flick the images away. "You know the Zabini madness? Quirke and Abercrombie were just explaining the end of the confrontation. It looks like someone tried to help them…someone who's remarkably fast and prefers spiderwebs to handcuffs."
"Harry." Ron repeated testily, reopening his eyes with a scowl. "Are you hinting at what I think you are? Don't joke about things like this!"
"I'm not joking." Harry didn't seem put off by the escalating tension. "There'll be a meeting on this and some other issues in a bit, but I wanted to let you know first. Ron, I think we've found New York's 'lost' superhero."
There was a beat of silence. Taking a few shaky steps forward Ron slunk into a seat, face falling into his hands as denial fully disapparated. He let out a small groan. "Spiders. Of all things, why is it always bloody spiders?"
"To be fair," the Head Auror struggled to keep his tone sympathetic rather than amused, "I'm pretty sure this guy's human."
Ron lifted his head back up, staring in scandalised disbelief at his brother-in-law. "HE MAKES WEBS COME OUT OF HIS HANDS!"
This exclamation at last pushed Harry over into laughter (which wasn't particularly welcomed). When he at last managed to speak between his chuckles, the words were said in a sing-song voice. "The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the waterspout—"
"SHUT UP HARRY!"
A/N: Forget about Spiderman joining movieverse!Avengers; I want to see this crossover team up. Because come on, there's no way I was the only one picturing this when Gwen and Peter kept talking about England. If they had moved, their run-in with wizards would've been inevitable.
I'm thinking of making this a series. I have a few ideas in mind (Harry trying to track down Peter's identity, gap year craziness, Harry finally finding Peter and scaring him half to death Nick Fury style…), but any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated! Serious, tragic, comedic, crack-y…anything would be lovely :D