A/N: Welcome to Toppling Heroes, the sequel to another of my stories, Kicking Gotham. These stories take place in a fusion of Harry Potter and a somewhat mix-and-match version of the DC Universe where the history of the Harry Potter world is mostly unaltered, and the big-hitters of the DC world are just starting to come out of the woodwork after such things had been mostly forgotten by history.
This story has been pre-written in draft, and so will be getting a regular posting schedule (probably weekly) as I edit chapters for consumption. It will be around 90k words long once complete, and 18 chapters long.
I hope you enjoy!
The British Museum was lit in hues of red and flickering blue. A dozen police cars were scattered across the piazza, light bars flashing in the cool evening air. The quiet pop of his arrival was lost amid the sound of hundreds of people milling about on the lawn in front of the museum. The huge building, designed in a style meant to conjure images of the Parthenon in the mind of the viewer, was always an impressive sight at night, lit as it was in stark relief by the many decorative uplights. The flashing blue lights surrounding it added a whole new dimension to it, like Poseidon himself had come to London to claim it for his own.
A small patch had been marked out at the edge of the lawn. It was a circle, surrounded by 13 brightly coloured poles driven into the ground, around which the muggles flowed unawares. In the middle of the patch a small, open-sided tent had been erected. It hung in the air, supported by invisible magical tethers as witches and wizards hurried to-and-fro beneath it. Each of them was consumed by their individual tasks; a microcosm of the scene beyond the circle.
A young wizard, whom Harry vaguely recognised as someone he'd passed occasionally in the corridor at work, greeted him immediately. He was dressed in passable muggle clothes; a button up shirt, and a set of chinos that were a little on the short side. He also possessed the same look of earnest helpfulness that Harry had long come to dread. "Glad you could make it, sir," he said by way of introduction. "We've not long gotten set up. Looks like a witch got caught up in a meta-incident."
That warranted a perplexed frown. He'd been told by the breathless intern that had summoned him that he was needed. "Why am I here, then?" he asked. "Surely this is a job for the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes? What about the dark magic that was reported?"
For a moment, the kid was illuminated in the headlights of yet another arriving muggle emergency vehicle. "Um, well, there's been some indication that dark magic was used?"
That didn't sound anywhere near as serious as he'd been led to believe. Under Harry's impassive look, the kid managed to quail even further. "Look, what's your name, kid?"
"Oh, it's Brown, sir. Willard Brown," he said, his eyes darting back and forth between Harry and the ground.
"Okay then, Willard. I figure this is your first big call, so let me explain something," said Harry as he ran a hand down his own tired face. He tried to keep his tone calm, but it proved to be a little beyond him. "I am sure you're aware of this, but we have an entire team of aurors who would be able to handle 'some indications of dark magic'. An entire night-shift of them, in fact. Conveniently located at the Ministry, and not in their bed like I was. The procedure is that you call them in, and then they decide if it's a big enough problem that my personal attention is required. Understand?"
Harry wasn't sure what it was that meant some people seemed to think that of all the people in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, only Harry himself was in any way capable of dealing with even the most menial of problems. At the start, he'd tried out getting annoyed at the invariably young offenders, but had quickly discovered that it was like kicking puppies. For some reason, the younger generation, even more than his own, seemed to think that magic itself had its source somewhere far up Harry's own arsehole, and nothing he did to disabuse them of that notion seemed to have any effect.
"Understood, sir," said Willard, now looking absolutely anywhere but Harry. There was a momentary pause before his eyes flickered back up to him for just a moment. "Um, should I do that now?"
"No," said Harry with a sigh. "I'm up now, so I may as well take a look. Just, please, in future, remember that I need to sleep just as much as any man, okay?"
"Yessir," said Willard who then, bizarrely, snapped off a salute.
"There's also no need to salute," said Harry drily. "We're wizards, not commandos. Now, get me up to speed on what happened here."
"Right, uh, old habit," said Willard. "Well, like I said, it was a meta incident. There was an event being hosted at the museum to show off some new archaeological finds from Greece, I think, and some criminals hit it with the aim of stealing one of the artefacts."
Willard shook his head. "No, sir. It's all completely muggle. Well, anyway, it turns out the meta calling himself 'Superman' was either also present, or was warned about the attack somehow, and he turned up and a fight started between him and the thieves."
Harry glanced over towards the museum, reassessing it for any exterior damage. He'd been getting better in recent months, but Superman tended to leave some fairly significant damage in his wake. The museum seemed to be undamaged, at least from the outside.
"So no metas amongst the thieves?" Harry guessed.
"No, sir. But they did reportedly bring a little glowy rock with them that seemed to weaken Superman enough that he didn't take them down straight away."
Kryptonite then. Harry made sure to stay fully aware of everything going on in the muggles' meta community. Especially with the arms-race between the so-called 'heroes' and the various different criminal networks hotting up as it was. It had been causing problems, to say the least, for the Statute in some of the places where they ended up clashing. "Right, well carry on then," he prompted.
"Well, as the fight got more serious, a witch who'd been attending the event tried to get involved," said Willard. "She cast an unknown spell at, we think, one of the thieves. The whole thing was caught on camera by at least a dozen other muggles."
"So, naturally, you've wiped the footage and obliviated all the nearest witnesses," said Harry.
"We did," said Willard. "Only, we couldn't obliviate Superman himself as he left the scene before we got here."
"No need to worry about Superman," said Harry. It was still technically policy that muggle metas needed to be obliviated if they came into contact with the magical world, but it wasn't one that any of the law enforcement departments around the world worked especially hard to enforce, much though it displeased their political masters.
After-all, Zatanna was part of that group Superman had set up along with Batman and a few others. It was pretty much certain that they already knew a fair bit about the wizarding world.
Willard's head bobbed up and down. "That's what Mr. Gudgeon said."
There was a short moment of silence then, while Harry waited for Willard to continue, but it seemed he was waiting for some other input. "Carry on," said Harry, a little impatience colouring his tone. The kid still hadn't explained why his own presence was required.
"Oh, right! Well, the spell she cast missed, you see," he said, tripping over his words a little. "When we checked to make sure there were no lingering effects on the item she hit, well, there was a trace of dark magic. Mr. Gudgeon was certain of it."
Harry resisted the urge to point out that Gawain Gudgeon had once 'sensed' dark magic on a set of place-mats that had been charmed to offer glowing praise for any and all food placed upon them. "Right, well, take me to wherever this 'trace' is," he said. He was rather proud that he'd been able to keep the dismissive tone subtle enough that Willard didn't pick up on it.
"Of course, sir," said Willard, "It's still in the museum, so…" He trailed off, though the look he gave Harry's robes communicated the rest of the sentence clearly enough.
"Yes, yes," said Harry as he snapped his fingers with slightly more theatricality than was probably necessary. His auror's long-coat transformed smoothly into exactly the kind of boxy and unimaginative suit often worn by muggle investigators. It was an old familiar piece of transfiguration that he could just about do in his sleep. It also had the secondary effect of ensuring Willard didn't forget just who he was speaking to.
A little belatedly, Harry realised that showing off like that might have been one of the reasons he'd been roused from his bed so unnecessarily.
He caught Willard's eye and nodded towards the museum. "Lead the way then."
As they made their way past the tent, Harry glanced in and caught a glimpse of honey-blonde hair that something in his memory supplied was probably important. He stopped a moment and took a closer look. One of the other investigators moved out of the way, and his suspicion was confirmed. It was definitely Daphne Greengrass. Before she could notice him staring, he looked away and resumed following Willard. A couple of seconds later he stepped over the invisible boundary between the concealment poles.
"So, this witch is Daphne Greengrass?" he asked as they made their way across the lawn.
Willard looked back, seemingly not expecting the question. "Who? Oh, yes. That's her. Do you know her?"
"Went to school together," Harry supplied noncommittally. He wasn't about to spill his life story, after all. "Has she said anything?"
"From what I've seen it's shutting her up that's the trick," said Willard before he realised what he'd said and his eyes went wide. "Uh, that is to say, she's very opinionated."
"Don't worry about me," said Harry with a chuckle. "I didn't say anything about liking the woman. I think you were on the money the first time around, so let me rephrase; has she said anything about the dark magic?"
"Apart from to deny that she ever cast anything?" said Willard. "No, nothing."
At that moment a police sergeant wearing the normal eye-wateringly yellow loose-fitting jacket over a black stab-vest stepped in front of them. "Excuse me, sirs, but can I see some form of identification?"
"Of course," said Harry as he pulled out his official identification. It was much simpler to have real identification for official business. As the muggle's security measures became more advanced, it was much too easy to trip over some minor detail, and that only led to paper-work. Much easier to have one of the few muggles in the know set them up with real papers.
Harry's papers identified him as a high-ranking member of the Security Service, usually referred to as MI5. The officer blinked twice before looking back at him with just a bit more respect. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience, sir," he said quickly. "You can go right on in."
"Thanks," said Harry agreeably. "Before we do, though, can you tell me who's currently in charge?"
"That'd be DCI Thompson," said the officer, slinging his thumb over his shoulder for emphasis. "He's inside. Wouldn't be surprised if the Commissioner's on his way though."
"Much appreciated," said Harry, before continuing up the handful of steps and between the looming Greek pillars to enter in through the almost comically small doors.
The British Museum was the kind of building that stuck in the memory. Harry had only ever been a couple of times before, when it had been Hermione's turn to decide on the location for their monthly outing, at least until they had fizzled out. He still remembered Ron asking how the Muggles had managed to charm the ceiling to be like the one at Hogwarts, much to her consternation. Then, when she was half-way through her explanation of the engineering principles at work, he'd admitted that he was just having her on. He pushed away the amusing memory and looked about.
Usually, the space was fairly open, filled only with milling people and the occasional over-excited child, but now it looked very different.
The evening event had clearly been a grand one. Many tables had been laid out all around the Great Court's massive central rotunda, and here and there between them temporary display cases had been set up. Each one had some important historical find or other held within it. Harry saw a couple of swords, one much more ornate and impressive looking than the others. There were also some very fancy looking shields, and a number of different works of pottery, each decorated in what Harry recognised as a Greek style. That was about as specific as he could get; he was no expert on antiquities.
That the evening had not ended well was clear enough to see in the overturned chairs, shattered wine glasses, and occasional forgotten shoe scattered across the floor. A few of the tables had been smashed in whatever fight had occurred, and as Harry looked around he saw a gaping hole in the glass roof of the courtyard.
Fortunately, from the look of the damage, it didn't seem likely that anyone had been seriously injured in the fight. A group of six men, presumably the thieves, were clustered in one corner of the court. A couple of firearms officers watched them carefully for any sign of resistance or an attempt at escape. Around the rest of the large open space, men and women in white overalls were picking over the debris with great care, while others took pictures of every square inch of the huge room.
Harry looked over towards Willard. "Okay, where's this dark magic, then?"
"Oh, it's over here," he said, picking his way carefully through both the debris and the police officers inspecting it towards one of the temporary display cases. It had been smashed, with glass glittering all around it, but the item it contained was still there.
With a subtle gesture, Harry cast a muggle repelling charm, ensuring the muggles police officers would pay them no heed. One of the officers nearby promptly looked at his watch, and said something to his companion before they both wandered off in the direction of the door. Harry then pulled his wand out from his sleeve and inspected the item more closely.
It was an unassuming little piece: a jar of some sort, or maybe an urn. It was pretty drab, whatever colours it had once been painted were long lost to time. It was in a pretty simple style that seemed almost out-of-place amongst the other items of the collection, but perhaps that was the very reason it was important. Harry knew he didn't have the knowledge to judge such things.
As he poked the tip of his wand at the jar, he cast a simple dark magic detection spell upon it. A faint blood-red glow surrounded it for a moment before fading away again. Harry frowned. In all honesty he hadn't expected to find anything at all, but it looked like chance was not smiling upon him.
Next he cast the same spell on the glass case, but it didn't light up at all. He looked back at Willard, who was watching him closely. "Was the case smashed in the fighting?" he asked.
"I'm not sure," said Willard, his expression and tone both apologetic. "Maybe the videos the muggles took would show that?"
"Good idea," said Harry, and before he'd even finished speaking, the kid was near-enough running off in the direction of the door again. To himself, Harry muttered, "I'll just keep looking at this, then."
"Mageia Specialis Gustatus," said Harry. It was an uncommon spell, but he had found that it could often give some useful insight. The only issue with it was that it had to be vocalised, or the results could be a bit unpleasant. This time the red hue was a little stronger, and before it could fade, Harry flicked his finger through it and then licked it carefully. It was dark magic, of that there was no doubt. He could easily detect the tell-tale rotten aftertaste of particularly foul magic, but there was little enough else to go on. Really, if it wasn't for the aftertaste, he'd have said it was more like a simple stunning charm. He took another taste. Definitely a stunning charm, if slightly modified by someone with a disregard for the comfort of others.
He pulled out his notebook and set a quill down on it before he started casting more diagnostic charms. First, he started teasing apart the different aspects he'd been able to pick up with his simple taste check. Then he started trying to work out exactly the dark magic's nature was.
The quill danced and jumped across the notebook, filling page after page with tightly spaced shorthand in addition to a few runes that Harry thought might have some connection to the magic used. He knew he'd be able to ask Daphne what spell she'd used, but he didn't really trust her to tell the full truth, especially as he was becoming slowly more certain that there was some soul magic component to whatever it was she'd cast.
What was the woman thinking? Certainly it was possible to induce catatonia through careful manipulation of a person's soul, but the cost of doing that was surely far too high. Daphne was no dark witch in training, she was a socialite with delusions of grandeur.
Or, more importantly, delusions of her own wealth. How exactly had she managed to get a ticket for the event? From what Harry had heard on the grapevine, she'd finished running through her inheritance not long after that business in Gotham.
"Was there any evidence the thieves had an inside—" He stopped when he realised he was talking to empty air. Willard hadn't returned from his errand.
With a frustrated sigh, Harry set off in the direction of the officer in charge. After a few steps, he paused for a moment. He'd almost forgotten to remove the muggle repelling charm. After a lazy flick of his hand to dispel the charm, he continued on his way across the floor.
"I don't care about excuses," DCI Thompson was saying into his phone as Harry approached. "We need those custody vans here yesterday, do you understand?"
Without waiting for any time to receive a confirmation, he hung up the phone and immediately started shouting orders to some of the other officers present.
"Yes, what is it now?" he said when he noticed Harry. "Who are you? Do you Whitehall types not have anything better to do?"
"I'm with the Security Service," said Harry, flashing his muggle credentials again. "Can I ask you a couple of questions about what happened here. I'll be brief."
"I'm sure you will be," said Thompson, his voice positively dripping with scepticism. "What do you need to know?"
"Have you got anything from the thieves, yet, and has there been any indication that there was an inside man?"
Thompson eyed Harry with exactly the kind of healthy suspicion he'd hope to find in any experienced officer of the law, but he answered. "They're Intergang, I assume you've heard of them?" he asked.
The new face of organised crime, from what Harry had heard. "Are you sure? I thought they operated in the States?"
"Not anymore it seems," said Thompson grimly. "Half the crew here is born and bred in the UK. If they've decided to expand over here, I figure both our lives are going to get a bit more interesting."
Harry nodded absent-mindedly, perhaps that would be the case if he actually worked for MI5 but as it was it wasn't all that important. "Then what were they after, and what about the inside man?"
"Well, they aren't talking, obviously," said Thompson. "Looks like they were after the Sword of Damocles. That's the swanky looking one in the middle. Meant to be worth a pretty penny."
That wasn't especially helpful to Harry. Whatever that sword was, it clearly had nothing to do with whatever Daphne had been up to. He'd have to see if he could get the Minister to approve an interrogation of the muggle thieves. It seemed a puzzling coincidence that Daphne Greengrass of all people was out at some muggle event when it was hit by a gang of thieves.
Or maybe that was his inherent distrust of her coming through. She'd done everything she could to drag his name through the mud after the Gotham affair and while none of it had stuck, he still wasn't especially inclined towards giving her the benefit of the doubt.
"As far as an inside man goes," Thompson was saying, "we're not sure how they got in, but one of the officers did find a security door that was malfunctioning. Showed as locked when it actually wasn't. Could just be a computer error though."
"Okay," said Harry as he mulled over the new information. He'd have to get someone to take a look at the lock, but he felt like he already knew the answer. "Thanks for your time, Detective Inspector. I'll let you get back to work."
"Much appreciated," said Thompson with every impression of gratitude. The little bow as he said it was taking the piss though.
Harry made his way back out the front door. Upon emerging back outside in the cool night air, he was immediately able to recognise Willard. Apparently he hadn't had the necessary credentials to get by the officers guarding the entrance, and had also not had the needed imagination to work out a way around that particular setback.
Without stopping as he walked by, Harry gestured that the younger man should follow. He had to skip a little to catch up, but when he did, Harry immediately asked, "So, did you find someone with a copy of the footage?"
"I did, sir," said Willard, sounding relieved. Probably thankful that Harry wasn't chewing him a new one for taking so long about it.
Harry waited until they'd crossed the invisible line traced out by the concealment poles, before he summoned a large sheet of flawless glass filled with swirling smoke in all the colours of the rainbow. "In your own time," he said, when Willard just looked at it blankly.
"Oh, um, yes," said Willard, as he fumbled a little with his wand. Once he'd managed to come to grips with it, he tapped it tentatively against the glass, and it was immediately suffused with a blue glow. "I've never actually seen one of these in action before," he admitted.
A couple of the witches and wizards present, who Harry suspected really had very little reason to actually be there beyond nosiness and a desire to feel involved, stopped to watch. Harry ignored them. They might not have an actual job to do, but he did.
After a moment, the glow faded, and the coloured smoke picked up the pace. It whirled and churned, and from the chaos an image emerged, like a self-painting watercolour. The image was of the inside of the museum, and it was obvious that the panicked evacuation was already underway by the time the person holding the camera had started filming.
People were running to-and-fro, fear written clearly on each and every face. The footage was jerky and blurry, with the camera darting this way and that as the person behind it joined in the stampede. Really, it was almost impossible to make anything out.
Harry frowned, and tapped the glass plate a few times. It was, in essence, an extension of the magics used to create moving photographs and living portraits, and there was a small amount of extrapolation it could do. With his first tap the image paused, and after a moment the blurry image swam into a much better focus. His second tap brought the image back to life, only this time it wasn't the footage, but instead a living image created from the single moment he'd paused on.
This time, the camera shake and blurred motion was gone. Instead, they were able to see much more clearly what was going on.
Men in ill-fitting black suits could be seen at the back of the crowd. Each one of them carried some kind of muggle automatic firearm, and every one of their faces was covered by the same featureless white mask. As they watched, people tried to push their way through the crowd, towards the exit, but the retreat was soon stopped.
With another few taps to the glass, the originally recording footage reasserted itself on the image, and the camera started to jerk around wildly once more. Once it was pointing in the right direction, Harry stopped it again, and they watched as three more men in masks stepped into the court through the main doors, blocking the main escape route. There were a few in the crowd who looked like they were thinking about trying to fight their way out, until one of the gunmen fired his weapon in the air and they soon reconsidered.
Despite all the panic, Harry did notice some inconsistencies. It had clearly been meticulously planned, but why even attack the dinner at all? Surely it would have been much safer to steal whatever it was they wanted after the evening was done. The next thing he noticed was that one person didn't seem to be reacting like everyone else. There was a slight Asian woman in glasses who had remained seated and looked largely unconcerned by the events going on around her. She even glanced at her watch.
Before he could think about what that might mean, Superman arrived on the scene. With a blur of red and blue, he appeared behind the group of three newcomers. It took him less than a second to knock them all unconscious, with their guns crumpled and cast aside.
The other thieves weren't about to take it sitting down though. They started firing wildly into the crowd, and Superman disappeared again into a blur of motion.
Once again, Harry had to change the scene being displayed. After some quick alterations, the scene continued. While most of the thieves were firing into the crowd, one of their number pulled out a small rock that glowed a bright neon green. Almost immediately, Superman slowed enough to become clearly visible, and the gunmen turned their weapons on him instead.
Usually, ordinary bullets wouldn't even have given him pause, but due to the effect of the kryptonite, he was actually forced back. He did not let them have it their own way, however, as in the span of a few seconds his eyes flared a searing red, and two of the gunmen were forced to drop their weapons.
They both charged at Superman, after each of them activated some kind of electrified baton. That was when Harry saw what he was looking for.
A flash of light, far dimmer than Superman's eye-beams, issued from the crowd. Whoever had cast it was hidden behind the packed muggles, which was annoying. His eyes tracked the spell closely, and he carefully catalogued everything about it. It did indeed look like a Stunning Spell, but it wasn't unknown for spellcrafters to try and give their spells the appearance of some other more innocuous spell.
The most obvious difference compared to an ordinary stunning spell was the fact that it passed straight through the glass of the cabinet, only to explode when it hit the jar beyond. The entire image was washed out by the strange red and green explosion, which had probably flashed bright enough to temporarily blind a some of those who'd been closer to it. Even Superman himself was thrown back. When the image returned, he was picking himself up off his feet and shaking his head as if to clear it.
"The stunning charm doesn't do that, does it?" said Willard, though he looked uncertain when he said it. As if he hadn't seen the stunning charm in action a thousand times before.
"Not typically, no," said Harry, resisting the urge to say something more cutting. "Look at the jar, though. It's undamaged by the explosion, but the glass was shattered."
"What does that mean, then?" Willard asked.
"That means we need to talk to Greengrass," said Harry grimly. "I'm not sure what that spell was, but the results definitely don't look like a stunning charm to me." Despite that, he wasn't convinced from looking at the spell that it was actually dark in nature.
"Now?" Willard was looking over towards where Daphne was seemingly exhorting one of the Misuse of Magic response-witches.
"Maybe have them bring her back to the Ministry," said Harry after a moment's thought. "Hopefully she'll be a bit less opinionated tomorrow morning. I need to have someone take a look at my notes on the spell before I question her, anyway."
A/N: And so we begin.