The Astonishing Spider-Man
Spider-Man swung through the open doorway and then immediately charged the masked dark wizards, downing two of them with a combination punch/kick as he flew past them. The rest were shooting curses at him, forcing him to dodge, bending and twisting his body in all manners to avoid the lethal magic. Between dodges and the occasional punch or kick, he was shooting web shots like mad.
Not all of them hit, unfortunately, but it kept him from being entirely on the defensive and the few that did hit managed to take out some of the opposition, or at the least kicked them out of the fight for a short time. Still, he had to stay in constant motion because if he stopped for an instant, he knew that they would be on him like white on rice. Only with lethal spells rather than blandness.
"Hold still! You little! Argh!" the leader screamed, trying to hit him with the fastest curses he could cast. None of them hit, although they came close.
"Um, no!" Spider-Man said in reply and then jumped away again, right before several spells exploded where he'd been.
Out of nowhere, there was a rapid series of loud pops and cracks. The Death Eaters froze at the sound and looked around. Of those not unconscious or encased in webs of one kind or another, there were maybe six or seven left able to fight, and they had been exhausted from the fight with the Spider-Man. The leader had a quick decision to make, and no matter which decision it was, he knew that he was in for a lot of pain under the Dark Lord's wand. But that pain would be less if he just retreated rather than forced Voldemort to expend even more resources freeing them from Ministry imprisonment.
"It's the Aurors!" one of the Death Eaters shouted.
"Surrender! Come out with your wands on the ground!" an authoritative voice from outside the building called. That forced the raid leader's hand more than anything else.
"Portkeys! Emergency portkeys, now!" he ordered and pulled his own and triggered the activation sequence. A few moments later, all the Death Eaters, even those that had been unconscious or tied up, vanished in the standard swirl of Portkey transportation.
A minute later, perhaps less, Spider-Man slowly lowered himself down from the ceiling, holding a single line with both hands while he controlled his descent with both legs bent, feet on the line. Looking around, he saw that there were no stragglers and nodded to himself. Jumping free, he flipped himself right side up and headed toward the front of the shop and walked out the front door, casting a wide-scale Reparo over his shoulder as he did so. Outside, Diagon Alley was still dark and mostly quiet. Looking back at the shop he'd just saved from being destroyed, mostly, he shook his head and started walking back towards the Leaky Cauldron and the 24-hour Floo Access there, dropping the wand he'd used, which had been dropped by one of the fleeing Death Eaters and not picked up before they'd Portkeyed away.
At least he'd stopped the ice cream shop from being demolished, even if Florean Fortiscue had already fled the country and gone into hiding. Muttering to himself as he walked up to the still burning fire, he said, "Glad the Twins had those firecrackers available. Don't think I would have made it too much longer. Gonna have to invest some more into those products of theirs. Definitely need to get me some more 'Appa-crackers' for just in case. Three Broomsticks!"
The flames turned green and he dove in, but rather than allow the magic to take full hold of him, he shot out a web line and connected to the Gryffindor Tower fireplace. After as much time as he'd spent in Floo Space, he could now recognize the more familiar exit points and thanks largely to his spider powers and enhanced reflexes and strength, he could come out a different fireplace than the one he'd originally stated as destination. Still, he had to at least pick one in the same area and one connected to the Floo Network, otherwise he was plum out of luck. Still, there was plenty of floo traffic between all the magic pubs, so it never raised any attention.
Thankfully, it was still too early for anyone to still be up, so no one was there in the Common Room to witness the fireplace open to the Floo Network and Spider-Man come shooting out. Enough experience had taught him to never stay in one spot for longer than necessary, so before his feet had even touched the stone floor, he was already zipping for the staircase and crawling along the ceiling of the small winding staircase. Once he got to the door for his room, he allowed it to creak open and waited a few seconds before entering. The way Ron snored and Neville had nightmares, it wasn't impossible for him to be surprised one night and have one of them catch him.
As a matter of fact, it had already almost happened twice already, hence the extra precaution.
This time only snores answered him. Still, better safe than sorry. Moving as quickly as he possibly could, he dropped down, back flipped into the room, toed the door shut, jumped straight up to catch the ceiling rafters with his fingertips, and then pole swung across the ceiling over to his bed, where he silently slid down on a web line he put there, one that would dissolve in only a few minutes, but was extremely elastic as a trade-off. Once in bed, he stripped off his costume and hid it in his usual spot. He then turned over and went to sleep.
. . .
Only to be woken up by his Danger Sense going off!
His body was already reacting before he was fully awake, his hand snapping out and grabbing the wrist of whoever was reaching for him. Opening his eyes, he saw Ron's arm in his grasp, and his friend's face pale with shock.
"Bloody hell, mate! How'd you do that?" he exclaimed.
It was only after Ron asked this that he realized he was still holding on to his friend's wrist. He almost had to force himself to let go, but he did and then sat up, still a bit disoriented. His Danger Sense had gone off... for Ron trying to wake him up?
"Uh, it's nothing, just, uh... dreaming of catching the Snitch. Yeah," Harry nodded, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. "Uh, Ron... what do you want? It's only..." he looked over at the clock. "Oh," was all he said as he realized the time. Apparently he'd slept longer than he'd thought.
"Yeah," Ron agreed. "What's with you these days mate? Used to be you were the one waking me up!"
"Can't really explain right now, Ron," Harry said as he bustled about, getting his things ready for the day, "Have to shower and... uh, you didn't by any chance happen to grab me some breakfast earlier, did you?"
"Breakfast still has another hour, mate. You're still good. See you down there?" Ron prompted.
"Uh, yeah, sure," Harry mumbled as he hurried into the bathroom.
A few minutes later, he was in the Great Hall, loading up on as much of everything as he could. Hermione and Ron soon joined him, though not together.
"Harry, I'm concerned about your health," Hermione confessed as she watched him devour his breakfast. "It's not healthy for you to be gorging yourself like this, and according to Ron, you've been the last to wake up every day since the start of term."
"I'm just hungry is all, Hermione," he answered after washing everything down with water. "And so I've been sleeping late. If that were a crime, Ron would be in Azkaban by now."
"You know what I mean!" he exclaimed before tearing into some biscuits.
"Yeah, OK," Ron grumbled a bit, tearing into a biscuit of his own.
The rest of breakfast was pretty much the same as always, and then it was time for class and they hurried to Herbology, making their way through the snow covered grounds to the greenhouses. During their caring for the plants Professor Sprout was teaching them about, they carried on a whispered conversation, as they did every Herbology class. This particular day, it was started about Harry telling them of his latest 'lesson' with Professor Dumbledore in learning about Tom Riddle's past.
Ron was thoroughly confused as to why the Headmaster was showing Harry all of it, despite earlier arguments made about knowing the enemy. Hermione, as always, agreed with Dumbledore's reasoning and found it all fascinating. Harry, on the other hand, was getting more than a bit disturbed by the parallels he found between himself and the young Tom Riddle.
Deciding to change the subject, he did something he knew he really shouldn't have the moment after he did it. He asked Hermione about the latest Slug Club party. Despite his... successful transactions with the socially-minded Potions Professor, Harry had somehow managed to finagle his way into avoiding any more contact with Professor Slughorn than that which was absolutely necessary in Potions class. As such, Harry always 'just missed' practically every party the Slug Club held, either because of scheduling conflicts, or the 'invitation' was somehow misplaced or late in arrival.
Ron, always a volatile volcano of jealousy at the best of times, immediately started to snap at her as she proclaimed it to be a fascinating and rather enlightening experience. Harry just did his best to keep the topic off of the latest hot-topic flitting about the gossip vines; Spider-Man.
Professor Sprout, of course, couldn't ignore their no-longer-whispered conversation and told them to get to work on their plant. It was a thorny mass of vines and they were supposed to be retrieving some pods from the center of it. Harry, using his superior reflexes, and more than a bit of his greater strength as well, tied up most of the vines so they couldn't do anything while Hermione reached in and got the pod. It tried to close tight on her, but Harry reacted first and held it open easily. Ron helped.
The problems came when Ron tried to bust open the pod. Unfortunately, Hermione was talking about Slughorn's Christmas party and how it was for Slug club members only. The pod went flying out of the redhead's hands as he squeezed it harder than the grip he had on it could maintain. It would have hit the glass of the greenhouse and then ricocheted who knows where, but Harry's hand snapped out and snatched it out of the air first. At the startled looks he received, and not just from Hermione and Ron, he shrugged and said something about Seeker reflexes and whatnot. It stopped most of the looks.
"Speaking of Seeker, Professor Slughorn has asked me to verify that you'll be available for his Slug Club Christmas Party. He knows and accepts that as the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team that your time is a valuable asset, but as I said, he's asked me to make sure you'll be available for it," Hermione questioned him without really asking a question.
"I'll have to check with the team later, to find out for sure," Harry shrugged, trying to come up with other excuses. "The Creevey brothers could use some more work on their Beater skills, as backup Beaters."
"Oh honestly, it's truly not that bad, Harry, you should give it a chance," she huffed.
Harry shrugged off her comments and focused in on their work once more. He was distracted yet again, though this time by his Danger Sense going off. And not like it had when Ron woke him up that morning, but for real danger!
"Uh, Professor?" one of the students nearest the windows facing the forest called out.
"Yes, what is it Miss Patil?" Professor Sprout asked as she came over to the student who'd called. "Why aren't you focusing on your work, Miss Patil?"
As reply, she pointed out the window, her hand trembling and her eyes wide with fear.
Harry looked over and his own eyes widened perceptively.
"Harry?" Hermione asked, concerned.
"Ron," Harry whispered to his friend. "Whatever you do, do not look out the windows, but do start getting everybody out of here. Hermione? Help him. Now."
They both were about to argue, until his tone changed and their own eyes went wide. They remembered how Harry had been when he'd gone after Sirius, thinking he'd been held prisoner in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic. There were undoubtedly more times before then, but that was the most recent where they heard Harry speak in that tone of voice. The tone of voice that told them danger was afoot, and that he had made his decision to do something insanely dangerous to stop it. Having more than enough experience with Harry in such a situation, Ron didn't argue, he just put down his things and started whispering to everyone nearby that they needed to leave. He also made sure to not look out the windows, because Harry never told him not to do something unless he meant it. Which of course meant that he looked the first chance he got and immediately regretted it, hurrying to get everyone out of there with a bit of panic now.
"Oh dear," Professor Sprout cried out. "Uh, uh, uhm, well... everybody!"
"We need to get back to the castle! NOW!" Hermione called out when it was clear the Professor was hesitating out of fear. That jolted everyone out of what they were doing, but they weren't about to listen to Hermione over the Professor. Then what Parvati had noticed actually reached the greenhouse and began tapping on the glass. A girl screamed, no one saw who. Sitting right outside, half on top of the greenhouse, was a fully grown acromantula! And it was not alone!
"Everybody out! Back to the castle!" Harry shouted the order. That jolted everyone into moving finally.
In the mad rush of running humans, hardly anybody noticed when one of them went the opposite direction from the others, toward the giant spiders!
Harry was never so glad that he'd started wearing his costume under his school uniform. He dropped his robe and shoes inside of a second and had the shirt/sweater and pants off only a few seconds after that, gathering the lot of it into a quickly fashioned web-bag that he stuck in an out of the way corner of the greenhouse before slapping on his web shooters, gloves, boots and mask. Total time to change; thirty seconds.
Using a web line to pull him into the air, he swung up to the roof of the glass building and confronted the acromantula that was already there. He lashed out with his wrists, keeping the webbing 'standard' for the moment, using web shots to pin the spider's many legs in place before shouting at it.
"What the bloody hell do you all think you're doing?! Are you insane?! Attacking Hogwarts like this?! Even if I'm here, you're practically committing suicide for your whole race by doing this!"
It didn't respond, except to fire its own web shots at Spider-Man to keep him back while it tore its legs free. Once that was done, it leaped to attack him, all eight legs spread wide, mouth dripping with venom.
"Oh bugger!" he exclaimed, already moving to dodge thanks to his Danger Sense.
Jumping up and over the giant spider, he angled to land behind it, but despite his trying to avoid it, he couldn't stop the hit as it slammed him into the ground from the side. Knowing he couldn't afford the time to deal with the pain, he just ignored it and with a cry of agony normally associated with torture curses, he forced his body to move, rolling along the ground to avoid the pounding attacks by the spiders, until he got his feet and hands beneath him and could leap away as far and as fast as he could. Once he was free of immediate attack, he shot out a web line, trusting his Danger Sense to do the aiming for him, and web zipped to safety. However temporary it may be.
Seeing that he'd managed to get out of the line of sight of the acromantula attacking him, he tried to get the lay of the land, so to speak. From the looks of things, only the oldest of the colony were here, so only about a dozen, maybe a few more at the most. On the downside, every single last one of them were bigger than a car, probably the proper comparison would be tanks, except tanks didn't have eight appendages and could move, jump, and swing about with reflexes a snake could envy. In fact, the only good news was that they were largely ignoring the students running for the castle, and even the castle itself. No, they were only focused on him. So... lot of up and down sides to the situation in equal measure really.
Deciding to tackle the problems one at a time, he focused on the first giant spider and to deal with the rest as they came. Turning, he took a running jump and then using his webs to grant greater force, he tackled the acromantula from behind. Only to go flying as it lashed out with one of its rear legs, not stopping until he crashed into the stone wall he'd just jumped off of.
"OK... that... hurt... just a little," he grunted, crawling to his feet. "Let's try that again!"
This time he tried a 'low' attack, running right at it and then sliding the last bit until he was beneath it and could attack its vulnerable underbelly. Just as he got within reach and started to slide though, the giant spider spun around and caught him with two of its legs, tossing him up into the air and then it spun around even faster and 'kicked him' with each and every one of its legs, sending him back into the wall, with a spider-web crack around the point of impact this time. His Danger Sense had warned him both times, but he couldn't react fast enough to do anything about it.
"Ow..." he groaned, taking a bit more time to get back on his feet this time. "Need... to think... this through... ow, really ow."
He realized, more like just had it shoved down his throat, that he'd been approaching this all wrong. Not to mention he'd gotten more than a bit cocky off the success he'd had against the Death Eaters recently. Fighting dark wizards was not like fighting giant spiders. And just because he had these amazing powers did not mean that he could fight only with them. He was a wizard still, and he should be fighting like a wizard too! Besides, these acromantula were used to fighting creatures with his abilities, seeing as part of his powers came from them, so maybe fighting like a wizard was the way to go for them, as fighting like a acromantula was the way to go when fighting the Death Eaters!
Pulling his wand from the back of his costume, glad it was still there, he waited for the spider to charge him, and fortunately he didn't have to wait long as he leveled his wand at it and cast, "Arania Exumai!" A flash of light covered the hulking beast and the next thing either of them knew, the acromantula was flying back into the woods, where it landed on its back, its legs all crumpled up in the air.
Harry blinked, beneath his mask a look of shock and amazement. He knew he'd gotten stronger since Second Year when he'd first had to use the spell, but... that was just plain ridiculous!
A scream drew him out of his shock and he quickly put his wand away and focused back on the here and now. He shot a web line out and got airborne as quickly as he could.
"Aaaaahhh!" Susan screamed, cowering with her friend Hannah and several other students.
The acromantula stalking them didn't react to the high-pitched scream, savoring their fear, a bit of drool leaking from between its mandibles as it anticipated devouring the young magicians. So distracted was it by its own gluttony that it never saw Spider-Man as he came around and covered its eyes with web shots and slammed it, feet first, in the back at the sensitive part right where its thorax was joined, paralyzing it temporarily. He then stood between it and its prey, pulled out his wand and cast the same anti-acromantula spell. There was a blinding flash of light and if anything this one went even further than the first one did.
Putting his wand away, Spider-Man turned to the frightened students and asked them, trying to disguise his voice by being overly confident and speaking a bit deeper, "Is everyone all right?"
"You-you saved us!" Hannah blurted out.
"It is what I do," Spider-Man said, striking a pose. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a school to save."
He jumped as high as he could without forcing it, still got him just over fifteen feet, and web swung away to another trouble spot. He found more than a few and had to make some snap judgments before people got hurt. Hoping for the best, he shot a few dozen web shots of webbing that hopefully would distract their targets enough for him to get their attention, while at the same time he kept swinging on to the amassed group assaulting the doors to the school proper.
"Hey snake-shits!" he called, landing right above the door on the castle wall, looking down at them. "Guess what? Your mom cheated on Aragog with the Basilisk! Oh, and you stink like a giant's bottom. Sure your guys are all acromantula? Seems like your mom couldn't keep it in her egg sack!"
The giant spiders, at least, stopped trying to get into the school, but that mostly had to do with them shaking in uncontrollable rage at their true target. But then, that was the plan. Before they could move to attack him, without any restraint whatsoever this time around, he added, "One more thing; Arania Exumai!" he cast the spell and every single one of them were crushed against the ground, given the angle at which he cast the spell.
That managed to stun them enough that he could kick them outside the castle walls, or throw, or swing, or whatever, and from there he could cast the same spell again, sending them deep into the forest. That had been the plan actually, until those others that he'd shot on the way in finally hunted him down before he'd managed to get them all over the wall, so he found himself rushing, not willing to risk these monsters waking up, still pisses off, inside the wall with their reinforcements already there.
After that, the fighting became a great deal more difficult. For one, because the remaining acromantula had heard his taunting comments and were seriously teed off, and for another they had seen him use the same spell that any competent wizard might've used on them and over the years Aragog's children had learned ways to get around a wizard casting spells, ways they used against him now. It didn't mean he was overrun or anything, but he couldn't exactly cast while swinging with either hand, needing at least one hand for his wand, not to mention unlike some spells this one had to actually be aimed.
He reverted back to his original method of pretty much just beating them up, plus their anger blinded them from attacking anyone else, which freed him up from having to worry about the stray spider attacking any of his classmates. Luckily, nobody else had it in them to be a hero it seemed. While that might make for a interesting bit of debate for later arguments, for the moment it freed him from distraction and he took full advantage, focusing on besting one of the horrible abominations after the next.
Spider-Man was actually pretty good against the much larger foes, moving quickly, always striking at their vital parts, and his Danger Sense giving him ample warning in order to block and dodge at will. That did not mean the masked hero wasn't still tossed about now and then, having his clock cleaned by a few of the rapid strikes from his multi-limbed opponents. Mostly they just seemed to knock him on the ground or tried to capture him with webbing of their own, but he found that he could tear through it even more easily than he could his own webbing. That concerned him for all of five seconds, before he was attacked by another and he had to take it out.
Moving swiftly, and following the prompts of his Danger Sense, he ducked, back-flipped, and dodged the combination attack from it, before jumping up and landing some punches and kicks of his own all around its... well, it's "head" he supposed, thoroughly disorienting it after a few dozen such attacks. Once it was more or less wobbling on its shaking legs, he saw he had a few seconds to land a truly devastating combo on it before it would recover enough of its senses to resume attacking him. He therefore didn't hesitate as he slammed a hard uppercut to its lower mandibles, sending it into the air – by a few feet at most – where he then jumped high above it and shot a couple of elastic web lines on the ground and used them to propel himself at the sensitive paralyzing spot where the thorax met with the rest of the body. Kicking it with such force actually allowed him to jump off it and the body to bounce off the ground, allowing him to repeat it three more times before the elastic webbing broke, so he quickly changed his webbing and formed a rather large 'spiked' club out of it and slammed that into the main bulk of the giant spider's body with sufficient force that to observers it looked as though the spider had well and truly been squashed. Spider-Man, however, knew that wasn't enough and allowed the spiked club to dissolve, instead forming a gigantic hammer out of webs this time and even jumped up with it and spun a couple of flips to give it as much momentum as he could before hitting it in the same spot, squashing it even more. Still not enough, so he web-grabbed a couple of nearby boulders, sent them into the air, then grabbed the squished-but-not-out-of-it-acromantula the same way and heaved it into the air. Then, jumping as high as he possibly could, he web-grabbed the boulders and brought them together, with the giant spider in the middle, making a new delicacy he decided to call Acromantula Club Sandwich, on the rocks!
He waited a few seconds to see if it would so much as twitch. When it didn't, he nodded and moved on.
It took another half dozen 'Club Sandwiches' to get the message across, but eventually they all retreated, leaving Spider-Man standing there alone in the open area between the Forbidden Forest and Hogwarts school, dozens of acromantula bodies laying about on the ground, but thankfully no student bodies. A sudden commotion behind him caught his attention, and turning he saw something that as Harry Potter he hadn't seen since Third Year when he'd won Gryffindor the Quidditch Cup. Practically half the school, possibly more than that, screaming and cheering and waving their hands about and running to come and hoist him up as their hero.
"Uh, yeah... pass!" he said to himself and immediately launched himself into the air, web-swinging his way around to the path to Hogsmeade, but not actually go past the school gates. Instead he stuck to the shadows and silently made his way back to where he'd stashed his clothes, changed, and then started looking for his friends.
He eventually found them just outside the Hospital Wing.
"Guys! Hey," he called, running up to them, out of breath and sweating.
"Harry!" they both cried with relief.
"We were so worried about you!" Hermione said, hugging him tight, her eyes suspiciously wet.
"Yeah, when," Ron's voice broke a little and he turned away slightly, "when we lost sight of you in the crowd, I'd thought those... things had gotten you! It's all I could do to keep Hermione from running off out there to find you!"
Harry suddenly felt a surge of appreciation for both his friends at these pronouncements, and hug, but especially what Ron had told him. If Hermione had raced out in the middle of the fight, he didn't even want to contemplate what could have happened!
"Thanks, both of you, thank you," he said. "Ron, you especially. I'd... I had actually gotten stuck in the greenhouse, making sure everybody else had gotten out. Then..." he stopped there, because this is where he either had to start lying, or start making himself look like a coward to everybody that knew him. That was the way it worked with these superhero secret identities, wasn't it?
"Then what, Harry?" Hermione asked, pulling back and wiping her eyes.
"Yeah mate, where were you? What happened?" Ron asked. "And... if you were stuck in the greenhouse still, how'd you get out and up here?"
Lie it is then, he decided, hoping that he wouldn't have to test the Unicorns gift to protect his mind and thoughts from Legilimency, or his own pitiful Occlumency shields any time soon.
"I-I-I, I 'm not sure you're going to believe me," he whispered softly, looking down and away from them.
"Harry," Hermione said caringly. "Of course we'll believe you. We're your friends."
"Yeah, come on mate," Ron added with a smile. "Compared to everything else we've been through, how bad could it be? I mean, seriously, how bad is it going to be? We're talking giant s-sp-spiders here."
"All right," he sighed, his shoulders drooping rather dramatically. "I was trapped in the greenhouse, the acromantula was crawling all over the outside of the glass, one of them just waiting for me to come out. Never been so glad to have impervious charms on that glass, probably the only thing that kept it from breaking in. And then... I don't know where he came from but..." he paused, glancing around and seeing all the people decided to milk this for all he could, maybe redirect all of 'his' fame onto himself, IE, "Spider-Man appeared and fought off the acromantula!"
"WHAT?!" practically everybody within hearing range screamed together.
Not exactly a comedic moment, and not all of the responses were disbelief or surprise, some were actual outrage, while others were a bit of hero-worship. From his two best friends, he actually had a close-up view of both extremes of the two opposite ends of the spectrum. Ron was definitely part of the outraged group, having been firmly opposed to 'the masked vigilante' as the Daily Prophet called him, and pretty much hated everything having to do with the image Spider-Man presented. Hermione, not quite the mindless hero-worshiping follower that some of the others were, definitely viewed Spider-Man as a hero and she was enthusiastic and a bit disappointed that she missed out on meeting him, but clearly she was happy to hear this news. He decided to quickly move on before being bombarded by questions.
"Yes, Spider-Man fought off the acromantula! He saved me. If it hadn't been for him, who knows what would have happened? I might still be stuck out there, or if enough of them had tried, they could have broken into the greenhouse and gotten to me!" he shrugged. "And on top of that, after drawing them off, I saw that he was actually fighting them, trying to keep them away from the school, and throwing them back into the forest! He was... astonishing really!"
"Hm, the Astonishing Spider-Man," Luna quoted as she walked by, writing down every word Harry said onto her overly large notepad, parchment rather than paper of course.
"Luna, what have I said about trying to mimic Rita Skeeter?" Harry remarked to her as she passed.
"Did he happen to shout any catchphrases? Perhaps as part of an incantation needed to activate his powers?" she asked, ignoring his question. Well, at least her quill wasn't an acid-green Quik Quotes Quill.
"Uh, no, no catchphrase, but I did hear him use the anti-acromantula spell; Arania Exuma," he answered.
"So whoever Spider-Man is, he's definitely a wizard then!" Hermione proclaimed.
"Doesn't make him any less evil," Ron grumbled, arms crossed.
"Hm, yes, thank you," Luna nodded, professional-like. "And did you happen to notice any peculiar smells about him? Fudge, perhaps?"
"Uh..." Harry was at a loss. Fudge?, he thought, confused. "Nothing that stood out. But I was in the greenhouse, and he was outside it. I only came out after he'd tossed away the last of the spiders and everybody started screaming at him. Came here immediately after that. And no, I did not smell fudge at any point."
"Not an artifact then," the blonde mumbled, writing in her notepad. "Thank you for your time, Mister Potter, the Quibbler appreciates your cooperation and your endorsement through providing quotes free of charge." She nodded once, closed her notepad and walked away.
"Wait, you can ask for money for quotes?" Ron blurted out.
"Of course," Hermione answered, "That's how the Daily Prophet does it. For interviews and stories, people usually have to pay them, but for quotes, the interviewer always offers some compensation, usually no more than a few sickles here and there. You think Malfoy was badmouthing Harry during Fourth Year just for a school rivalry? No, Skeeter paid him and the others with pocket change."
"The Quibbler doesn't pay for quotes anyway, and besides, I wouldn't do that to a friend," Harry shrugged. "Especially a friend that writes the truth, no matter how outlandish it sounds to other people."
"Well, anyway, lets get you checked out by Madam Pomphrey, just to be sure," Hermione said, suddenly dragging Harry by one arm, Ron had the other.
"What? Wait, no, I'm fine! Really, all I did was hide in the greenhouse, the spiders never touched me! Guys? Come on! No, I am not spending the night under observation! NOO!"
Two Weeks Later
Harry walked down to breakfast, yawning as he went. He finally seemed to have gotten used to his new 'schedule' as it were, though still left tired for most of the morning, he was finally waking up on time like he used to, instead of after Ron was already up and showered. It had been an... interesting couple of weeks since the Acromantula Attack on Hogwarts, since his extremely public outing as Spider-Man.
Before that day, Spider-Man had been a rumor, something the papers speculated about, but only a few random people, whom he'd saved, had seen. Not counting the Death Eaters of course. But a live battle between him and a dozen giant spiders on Hogwarts grounds, in front of a majority percentage of the student population and at least three Professors? That was not just a rumor anymore, it was as real as You-Know-Who being back.
Surprisingly, since the Daily Prophet, and Quibbler, had run the story about Spider-Man being real, Death Eater attacks had actually gone down. At least those that he got dream warnings about did anyway. Occasionally there would still be something in a paper about people going missing, but as far as he could tell, Voldemort had nothing to do with those. Rather, it struck Harry that it seemed more like Voldemort was trying to determine if he had a spy in his midst that was telling Spider-Man where they would strike next, as every single one of their attacks that had been planned, ie that Harry had dreamed about, Spider-Man had shown up to stop or at least confront them either before or after the fact. Sometimes both if multiple attacks went off at the same time. Though, so far in his dreams, Voldemort had yet to actually say that was what he was doing.
Since the attack on Hogwarts, Spider-Man had made two other 'public' appearances. One at Hogwarts again, during Halloween, when some very stupid wannabe-prankster Slytherins had cast a ritual spell to summon the Demon of Fear and turned the entire castle into a much scarier haunted castle than it normally was. It was a harrowing adventure, but thankfully in the end nobody was permanently hurt. The second was a few days ago in Diagon Alley.
"He struck again!" Hermione announced while reading her morning paper.
"Who did what now?" Harry asked, drinking a dark, steaming liquid, which made him immensely grateful with every sip for having two House Elves amongst the staff that were loyal to him and willing to make him coffee each morning instead of serving him the usual steamed pumpkin juice.
"Spider-Man!" she exclaimed. Thankfully, this too had become somewhat of a daily occurrence and so he managed to avoid a spit take with the steaming hot liquid in his mouth. "He was in Diagon Alley just the other day! In broad daylight, while we were having lunch, and you were off making plans for your next Quidditch practice..." (Harry tried to hide his wince) "... he was off stopping an attack by Death Eaters on the Auror Force doing patrols in the Alleys! How do you suppose he gets around like he does? I mean, clearly he's a wizard, we've seen that ourselves. But there aren't many ways to get between here and London, not to mention all the other places he's been rumored to be at."
"Probably he Apparates," Ron said after swallowing. He'd finally learned that lesson from Hermione. "Either that, or the Floo. Portkeys are restricted to make, and really complicated too. Least that's what Bill says. Don't think even he could make one, come to think of it."
"But the Auror's have searched for an Apparition signature," Hermione pointed out. "It says so here in the paper, and they've not been able to find anything that would provide them a single clue. As for the Floo, it is as restricted as Portkeys, and the Ministry controls the Floo Network, they'd know instantly where he was coming from or going to if he were using the Floo!"
Ron shrugged, back to eating, and not willing to risk her wrath if he tried answering with his mouth full.
At that moment, Harry caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye—at least that would be his excuse if anyone asked—and turned to see Katie Bell walking past. "Katie, hey!" he called. "Still on for practice tonight at seven?"
She smiled and nodded, and resumed walking past. Thankfully this time his Danger Sense didn't go off indicating her being under the Imperius. As the first Quidditch match of the season approached, he was increasingly grateful that he'd acted when he had with that cursed necklace Katie had been carrying back up to the castle. If she'd touched it, even accidentally... he didn't even want to guess at the consequences!
Speaking of Quidditch, the team was really coming together. Though he'd kept at it with the 'reserve' players, the actual team was working like a well-oiled machine. Well, for the most part that is.
"And how about you, Ron?" he turned to his best friend. "Are you still on for practice tonight?"
"Honestly Harry, scheduling your team practices every time there is a Slug Club meeting..." Hermione started to rant, but he stopped her with a soft glare.
"Hermione, not right now please," he said, keeping his eye on the redhead beside him. "Ron?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, can't wait!" he false-enthusiastically replied, fear and nervousness showing in his eyes.
He sighed and hoped for the best, though he expected Ron's nerves would be causing him to choke as he had the year before. In recent practices, as game day approached, Ron's Keeper skills had steadily decreased in proportion to his apprehension. He needed to figure out some way of getting Ron past this mental block he seemed to have when performing in public. If only he could let him borrow his Spider-Man suit for the game! Hah! That would certainly fix his confidence problems, that's for sure!
Every time Harry wore the costume, and part of the reason why he took to wearing it under his clothes most days, was the feeling of overwhelming confidence and assurance that everything would be all right. Like nothing could go wrong, or at the very least would turn out OK in the end. That was why he got so mouthy and cocky with the bad guys when beating them up, not like he usually was. Not to mention luck just sort of... wait a tic! That's it!
For the remainder of breakfast, Harry had a cocky little smirk on his face, which a few people noticed but nobody was dumb enough to ask about. He'd just figured out how to get Ron over his little problem.
Later that day, after practice, which indeed went the way Harry had been expecting and could be said to have been the worst practice of the season, save for the fact that there were dozens of more practices to go, Harry was walking alongside his friend and trying to cheer him up, and also to keep him from quitting the team.
"I played like a sack of dragon dung," said Ron in a hollow voice when the door had swung shut behind the rest of the team after practice.
"No, you didn't," said Harry firmly. "You're the best Keeper I tried out, Ron. Your only problem is nerves." He kept up a relentless flow of encouragement all the way back to the castle, and by the time they reached the second floor, Ron was looking marginally more cheerful. When Harry pushed open the tapestry to take their usual shortcut up to Gryffindor Tower, however, they found themselves looking at Dean and Ginny, who were locked in a close embrace and kissing fiercely as though glued together.
It was as though something large and scaly with too many legs erupted into life in Harry's stomach, clawing at his insides, while hot blood seemed to flood his brain, so all thought was extinguished, replaced by a savage urge to jinx Dean into a jelly before pounding said jelly into a smear on the stone walls. Wrestling with this sudden madness, he heard Ron's voice as though from a great distance away.
Dean and Ginny broke apart and looked around.
"What?" said Ginny.
"I don't want to find my own sister snogging people in public!"
"This was a deserted corridor till you came butting in!" said Ginny.
Dean was looking embarrassed. He gave Harry a shifty grin that Harry did not return, as the newborn monster inside him was roaring for Dean's instant dismissal from the team. And maybe offering him as a peace offering to the Acromantula in the forest by webbing him in a cocoon and leaving him out in the forest.
"Er . . . c'mon, Ginny," said Dean, "let's go back to the common room..."
"You go!" said Ginny. "I want a word with my dear brother!"
Dean left, looking as though he was not sorry to depart the scene. Harry was not sorry to see him depart.
"Right," said Ginny, tossing her long red hair out of her face and glaring at Ron, "let's get this straight once and for all. It is none of your business who I go out with or what I do with them, Ron—"
"Yeah, it is!" said Ron, just as angrily. "D'you think I want people saying my sister's a—"
"A what?" shouted Ginny, drawing her wand. "A what, exactly?"
"He doesn't mean anything, Ginny—!" said Harry automatically, though the monster was roaring its approval of Ron's words.
"Oh yes he does!" she said, flaring up at Harry. "Just because he's never snogged anyone in his life, just because the best kiss he's ever had is from our Auntie Muriel—"
"Shut your mouth!" bellowed Ron, bypassing red and turning maroon. Harry had only ever seen that color on Mrs. Weasley when she was really, really angry that one time...
"No, I will not!" yelled Ginny, beside herself. "I've seen you with Phlegm, hoping she'll kiss you on the cheek every time you see her, it's pathetic! If you went out and got a bit of snogging done yourself, you wouldn't mind so much that everyone else does it!"
Ron had pulled out his wand too; Harry stepped swiftly between them. He didn't really know what he planned on doing, it was just instinct and he knew that he could react before either of them could actually cause any harm to one another. Physical harm that is.
"You don't know what you're talking about!" Ron roared, trying to get a clear shot at Ginny around Harry, who was now standing in front of her with his arms outstretched. "Just because I don't do it in public—!"
Ginny exploded with derisive laughter, trying to push Harry out of the way. "Been kissing Pigwidgeon, have you? Or have you got a picture of Auntie Muriel stashed under your pillow?"
A streak of orange light flew overhead and down the corridor to explode harmlessly against the ceiling, and if Harry's hadn't lashed out and moved Ron's wand arm up and away, in all likelihood it could have missed Ginny by inches or struck true. Harry pushed Ron up against the wall and tore his wand out of his angry grip.
"Don't be stupid—" he tried to stop his friends from making a huge mistake.
"Harry's snogged Cho Chang!" shouted Ginny, who sounded close to tears now, but still angry. "And Hermione snogged Viktor Krum, it's only you who acts like it's something disgusting, Ron, and that's because you've got about as much experience as a twelve-year-old!"
And with that, she stormed away. Harry quickly let go of Ron; the look on his face was murderous. They both stood there, breathing heavily, until Mrs. Norris, Filch's cat, appeared around the corner, which broke the tension.
"C'mon," said Harry, as the sound of Filch's shuffling feet reached their ears.
He handed Ron back his wand. They hurried up the stairs and along a seventh-floor corridor.
"Oi, out of the way!" Ron barked at a small girl who jumped in fright and dropped a bottle of toadspawn.
Harry moved automatically, catching the bottle and putting it back in the girl's hands, hardly noticed the sound of her thanks; he felt disoriented, dizzy; being struck by a lightning bolt must be something like this, he thought. It's just because she's Ron's sister, he told himself. You just didn't like seeing her kissing Dean because she's Ron's sister...
But unbidden into his mind came an image of that same deserted corridor with himself kissing Ginny instead... the monster in his chest purred... but then he saw Ron ripping open the tapestry curtain and drawing his wand on Harry, shouting things like "betrayal of trust" and "supposed to be my friend" and...
"D'you think Hermione did snog Krum?" Ron asked abruptly, as they approached the Fat Lady. Harry gave a guilty start and wrenched his imagination away from a corridor in which no Ron intruded, in which he and Ginny were quite alone—
"What?" he said confusedly. "Oh, uh... er..."
The honest answer was 'yes', but he did not want to give it. However, Ron seemed to gather the worst from the look on Harry's face.
Ron gave the Portrait the password and they both entered the Gryffindor Common Room. Neither of them mentioned Ginny or Hermione again; indeed, they barely spoke to each other that evening and got into bed in silence, each absorbed in his own thoughts. The redhead was snoring away within minutes. Harry lay awake for the same amount of time before deciding he wouldn't be getting any sleep until he'd cleared his head.
With that goal in mind, he removed his pajamas, crawled up into the rafters and put on his costume, while also exchanging canisters, putting away the full ones he'd been wearing, and putting on empty half full ones to use as back up and preparing the ones he'd go to sleep wearing for when he got back. Preparations complete, Spider-Man wall crawled out the window and web swung his way between the castle spires and out into the forest, allowing the wintry night air and adrenaline of his actions banish the thoughts of Ron's sister, his sister!, Ron's jealousy, and Hermione kissing anybody out of his mind.
It helped a little. For the rest, well, he happened to meet a gargoyle named Bruce that was rather lonely, stuck up at the highest point on one of the towers. He didn't name names or anything, but Bruce turned out to be a great listener and helped out in that regard, even offered some great advice, which the masked hero of course took; go back to bed!
To Be Continued...in Spectacular Spider-Man!
(AN: Sorry for the delay and any confusion. Brief explanation; each chapter of this story, (and this is it, conclusion of the trilogy as it were, though clearly the story is not yet finished, no more 'sequels', promise!), is going to bear the name of one of the many, many, many adjectives that have been used in conjunction with Spiderman's name over the years. So when I put that 'to be continued in 'whatever' Spider-Man', that just means, to be continued in the next chapter, and that is the next chapter's name. :) OK? Hope that cleared up any confusion people might have had. Enjoy!)