The Batman, re-envisioned as a wizard in the Harry Potter universe. Eight microvignettes (originally Facebook status posts) and the short story that followed.
Year Zero: Dumbledore sighed and looked appraisingly over his glasses at the dark-haired youth. “It is our choices, Master Wayne, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. Joe Chill was a man of great ability, once. But he chose a life of greed and darkness, and in the end he and you both suffered for it.” Bruce nodded slowly and relaxed, but still, behind his black eyes Dumbledore saw a cold determination.
Year One: Standing atop the astronomy tower, Bruce Wayne closed his eyes and listened for the gentle patter of wingbeats, the only evidence that bats and owls were on the hunt that night around the castle. He sucked in the too-clean air and wondered, not for the first time, if there were any wizards back in Gotham. There must be, he thought, and one day he would find them and ask them why they did nothing.
Year Two: “I don’t care how rich your muggle daddy was, Wayne, you’re just another mudblood yank to me!” Vincent Grimvice threw a clumsy hook, but Bruce leaned in and took it with his bicep. Unflinching, Bruce stepped forward and rammed the top of his head into the older boy’s nose. With a sputtering cry Vincent crumpled to the dungeon floor. An angry murmur went around the common room. Just another day in Slytherin House.
Year Three: “Your parents were killed by a wizard, weren’t they Wayne?” “By a squib, sir. A criminal.” Snape’s mouth twitched. “A squib? Then how did he do it?” “With a gun, sir.” There was a measured note of contempt for the young professor in Bruce’s voice. Snape remained unreadable. “Why did you come to see me, Wayne? To forewarn me about your next fight, perhaps?” Bruce smiled coldly. “I want you to teach me Occlumency.”
Year Four: Dim, starry light erupted from the end of Bruce’s wand and formed a cloud of flapping leathery wings and glinting fangs. “Wild patronus, mate!” said Bill Weasley, genuinely impressed. “Thanks,” Bruce grinned. Despite the hostilities between their houses, Bruce liked the handsome Gryffindor. “Why bats, Bruce?” Bill asked. “Bats scare me,” Bruce replied simply. “I want any dementors I face to share my dread.”
Year Five: Sneaking out of Hogwarts was elementary. Stealth, like so many things, came as naturally to Bruce Wayne as breathing. Into the prefect’s bathroom (password bribed from Philip Pinwood), out the window, down the wall, around the lake, wait for a shift change and over the gate. At the Hog’s Head Mundungus was waiting, puffing green pipe smoke in the corner. “So,” Bruce said, sitting. “What do you know about Azkaban?”
Year Six: “Oooh…you Slytherin men sure know what you are doing.” The naked Ravenclaw girl stretched cat-like and purred appreciatively, “Or maybe it is just American men.” Bruce flashed her a roguish smile and reached for his shirt. “My sister lives in Gotham, you know,” she continued conversationally. “She’s an Animagus, she is.” Bruce ignored her. Becoming an ‘international playboy’ was proving more tiresome than expected.
Year Seven: “You’re in the paper, mate.” Bill Weasley tossed the Sunday Prophet onto Bruce’s breakfast, open to the headline: For Orphan of Wealthy Muggles, Two Worlds Beckon. “So what are you doing after June?” he asked. Bruce shrugged, “Date movie stars, buy hotels, burn money to heat my money burning room.” “Come off it. Really?” Bruce hesitated, then said: “I’m going to go see the man who murdered my parents, and kill him.”
Bruce Wayne and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The sky cracked open and poured its contents down upon the jagged isle, hissing as it struck the stone walls and ramparts. Inside the windowless halls echoed with the moans and sobs and ragged screams of men lost in private hells, driven to despair and even madness by the still mist that hung in the air and the silent creatures that moved within it. In the corner of one tiny, damp cell a shriveled figure sat huddled and unmoving, as he had all day, and all yesterday, and everyday for a long time. And then, against all expectations, the room brightened, the air began to clear, and for the first time in six years Joe Chill remembered what it was like to feel.
The heavy iron door swung open, and into the cell flapped at least a dozen darkly silver bats, shining with a pale, warm light and illuminating the tall, broad-shouldered figure that stood in the doorway.
“Wh-who are you?” Joe Chill stammered, finding his voice raw from lack of use. “Have you come to s-save me?”
“No, Joe,” the figure said, stepping into the room. His voice was cold and gravelly, but something in his posture betrayed his youth. “I haven’t come to save you.”
“Who are you?” Joe repeated, more steadily now. The light and warmth of the patronus seemed to thaw him out of a great, frozen stupor. But even as new life rushed to his legs, his hands, his face, he felt a fresh fear rising in his chest, not hopeless and despairing like he was used to, but hot and urgent. The stranger loomed over him.
“You may not remember me,” the man said. “I was much smaller the first time we met. My parents and I bumped into you one night. Coming out of the theater.”
The man knelt down and moved into the light, revealing dark hair and strong, square features, so much like his father’s. Joe Chill let out a small gasp and seemed to retreat into his sunken features and his frightened, hollow eyes.
“You pulled a gun. You took our money. You shot them and ran off.” Bruce Wayne’s voice was no longer cold, but quaking with pain and fury.
Joe sat quite still and silent, the shock of the confrontation etching its way into his face as his mouth twisted, trying to find words. Finally a confused and whimpering question seemed to bubble to the surface.
“You— you’re a…they were wizards?” He was staring at Bruce’s wand.
“No!” Bruce spat. “I’m a muggle-born. It wasn’t until I got invited to Hogwarts that the British Ministry of Magic even noticed you existed and found out what you had done. They came and plucked you out of prison and put you here, so you couldn’t spill to your cellmate about dragons and owl post and Diagon Alley.” His anger was edged with bitterness now, and Joe seized on it, desperate and excited.
“Wizards don’t care about nobody but themselves!” Chill said, his eyes hungrily searching Bruce’s face for the slightest trace of sympathy. “You don’t know what they were like! The way the children teased me! The way the rest sneered or pitied me! They made me wait bleeding tables at the Leaky Cauldron! For years! Made me spend hours scrubbing floors they could have cleaned in seconds! No one gave a damn about what I cared for or what I could do, not if I couldn’t do it with a wand! I couldn’t take it anymore! I had to get away from them!”
“Shut up!” Bruce yelled, but once he had begun, Chill seemed unable to stop. The words gushed out of him, and he clawed for a grip on Bruce’s coat, irrationally hoping that here, finally, was someone who might understand.
“I stole spell books. I found potions I could mix without magic. I sold potions to muggles, telling them they were drugs. I was getting rich! These muggles, they respected me! They cared about me! But the Ministry came after me. They were jealous of what I had accomplished! They drove me out! I went to America. I had to try to start over. But in Gotham — Gotham! — I was barely off the boat when someone jumped me! They stole my money. They threw my books in the river! They took everything! I needed money to buy ingredients and get new books. I got in with the sharks. I borrowed from the families. But they always wanted their money back too quickly! I had nowhere to stay, hardly nothing to eat. No one would help me. The cops came a couple times, beat me up, threatened to deport me. They were worse than the sharks! I owed too much. I had to get money! Falcone and his guys were gonna kill me! I had to—”
Bruce grabbed him by the front of his ragged shirt and struck him hard with the back of his hand.
“ENOUGH!” Bruce roared, standing up, towering over the quivering criminal. “You killed my parents! You ruined my life!”
Bruce’s blow seemed to have brought Chill to his senses. He glanced at Bruce’s wand again, and then back up into the young man’s face. “I know,” he said finally. Then, trying to keep the fear out of his voice: “So you’re gonna kill me, then? Gonna kill me with your wand?”
Bruce stood silent for a moment, staring at Chill, his expression unreadable. Then the anger flowed back into his face like a blush, and he spat down at Joe: “You’re not worth the spell.”
Holding his wand, white-knuckled, in his left hand, he reached into his coat and pulled out a compact, heavy-looking revolver. The gun hung at his sides for a moment, and then he raised it, pointing it at Chill’s heart.
Seconds ticked by, achingly slow. Bruce’s heart thumped faster in his chest. This was it! This was what he had craved for seven years. He wanted to lick his lips in anticipation, but his tongue seemed too dry to move. And then, breaking the silence, Chill spoke.
“I’m sorry, you know. I’ve always been sorry. Everyday I wish I could take it back, take back everything that I did. Sure, I was desperate. A lot of people were. But that don’t change what I did.”
Bruce could not tell if the Squib was being honest or not. He hesitated, the silver bats still swirling soundlessly above his head. But then he remembered his parents laughing as they walked out of the theater together, his father’s strong, steady hand huge around his own, his mother absentmindedly fingering her pearls. Bruce’s pulse quickened again, and he thumbed back the hammer of the revolver until it clicked.
Hot fear leapt again into Joe Chill’s eyes, but then it began to fade; and with this he seemed to sink back into the empty shell he had been just a few minutes before, all hope sucked from his life by the chill of the dementors’ mist. He turned away from Bruce, curling back into his corner.
“Gotham ain’t like other places,” he said, his voice calm, almost contemplative. “There’s something about it, something bad. It tears at you, tries to drive you into the ground. Sometimes I think it’s worse than dementors. There’s no law, no help when you need it. Everyone was always scared there. So angry. Desperate. Even the bosses are cowards. They’d kill you for sayin’ it, but I could tell. They’re all superstitious, like they were scared of the dark. The cruel come and take from you, and you think, ‘maybe if I were just a little crueler myself…’”
His voice trailed off, and he sat, unmoving, waiting for Bruce to pull the trigger. But Bruce’s arm lowered a couple inches, and then a couple inches more. In his mind’s eye he could see a thousand little flashes of pain and suffering and violence, all glimpsed from the el-train or through car windows, or in the hospital where his father once worked. All shoved to the back of his mind, behind his own private pain.
Bruce uncocked the gun and dropped it on the floor. Then, waving with his wand for his patronus to follow, he stepped out of the cell, leaving Joe Chill alone in the dementors’ mist, and walked out into the pouring, lightning-cracked night.