Harry awoke to a genteel knock on the door. He opened his eyes slowly, unmoving, staring at the unfamiliar pillowcase slightly stained with drool. His fingers closed on his wand as the knock came again.
"Are you awake, Harry?" came a woman's voice.
It was the voice—in particular, the soft American accent—that finally jarred Harry's memory. Jean Grey, who he had met yesterday, along with the rest of her oddly-dressed fellow mutants. As everything came rushing back, Harry sat up.
"Er, just a moment," he called back.
He'd been forced to leave Privet Drive without his school trunk, so he had no spare clothes with him, unless you counted his Invisibility Cloak. He picked up what he had been wearing yesterday, rubbing his eyes and wondering how badly he had overslept, because he felt more tired than normal.
He glanced at the clock as he came back out of the bathroom, and saw that it was only ten o'clock in the morning. He shrugged, put the odd feeling down to the time difference, and opened the door to a smiling Jean. She wore simple, casual clothes, and a headband to hold back her long, auburn hair.
"Good morning," he said, belatedly. She returned the greeting and tilted her head gracefully to indicate he should follow her.
"Did you sleep well?" she asked as she led him back to the kitchen.
"Better than I expected," he admitted. "I don't usually sleep this late."
Jean patted his shoulder. "Well, no harm done. The Professor's been in touch with Betsy's brother; so we should be in touch with your regular teachers soon enough."
Harry wondered idly what the girl he'd met briefly had to do with his situation, but just nodded. Until he got back in contact with the Order of the Phoenix, he thought it best to simply keep his head down. They entered the dining room, and were immediately greeted by Amanda, seated near the door.
"Good morning, Harry!"
Logan, exiting the kitchen holding an enormous stack of pancakes, what looked to be an entire rasher of American bacon, and not one but three of the TV dinners, snorted and smirked at Harry. Amanda blushed even brighter than the day before. Harry, busy raising an eyebrow at the stacked trays he was carrying, pretended not to notice.
"Whatcha lookin' at, kid?" Logan grunted. "F'yer hungry, get yer own." He brushed past Harry and Jean, and made his way across the hall.
Harry glanced at Jean, but she just rolled her eyes. "Just ignore him. He'll warm up eventually."
Harry didn't expect he would stay long enough to get to that point, but didn't feel like making a point of it. Instead, he shrugged. The grocery shopping trip Jean had mentioned the previous night had evidently happened, because Harry entered the kitchen to find a brown-haired boy who looked a little older than him serving the pancakes, and a second rasher of bacon, presumably for everyone else to split.
"Bobby, did Logan remember to pay for his half of the groceries?" Jean asked the boy, who had been intent on the stove and apparently hadn't noticed them enter.
"Huh? Oh, yeah, Miz Grey, he did," Bobby answered. "You here for food?" He began assembling a plate without waiting for an answer.
"No, but Harry is," Jean said, passing the plate to him.
"Hey, new blood?" said Bobby. "Welcome to the Institute, dude." He held up a fist, which Harry blinked at for a moment before realizing what he wanted. He shifted the plate to his other hand and extended his own fist, which Bobby bumped. "I'm Bobby Drake," the boy introduced himself readily.
"Harry Potter," said Harry, reminded of his simple introduction to Hermione on the Hogwarts Express in their first year. Her reaction had been disproportionate…but was actually fairly understated compared to what Harry had gotten used to over the years.
"Cool," Bobby replied as he turned back to the stove. "Lemme know how the pancakes turned out."
Harry decided that although he may not be very used to introducing himself to people who didn't already know him, he rather liked it. Amanda was already gone when he returned to the dining room, so Harry and Jean sat down across from Jubilee, who appeared to be sleeping on the table.
"So, that was Bobby. He's one of our most promising students," Jean told Harry. "Could stand to focus more on his studies, though," she added with a sigh.
Harry chuckled as Jean launched into the story of the Institute's founding, once Professor Xavier came back to his native America in the years after the Korean war. Harry had to take a mental step back when he realized that the war she referred to was older than the Wizarding War in which Harry's parents and loved ones had fought. The Korean War had been several years after World War 2, which itself had been fought at the same time as the next-most-recent Wizarding War on the Continent. That war had ended around the same time Professor Dumbledore won his famous duel with Grindelwald. Afterward, it seemed, Professor Xavier had spent years adventuring in the Near and Far East, then some time studying in the British Isles, before opening the Institute.
The motto of the Institute, Jean told him, was Mutatis Mutandis, meaning, "to change what need be changed". Harry, chuckling, replied that Hogwarts' motto was Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus.
"What does that mean?" Jubilee asked curiously, glancing up from the crook of her elbow.
"'Never tickle a sleeping dragon'," Harry translated. Both ladies blinked at him incredulously, and Harry shrugged. "You can't deny it's practical advice," he added. They both chuckled as Harry finished his breakfast.
"You can leave that, Harry," Jean said, as he made to clear up his plate. She raised her voice pointedly, "It's Jubilee's turn to do the dishes."
Jubilee groaned theatrically, but got up to begin gathering plates to clean. She had dispensed with her yellow coat, and like Jean was wearing ordinary clothes—jeans and a reddish-pink shirt adorned with a golden X. She grinned at Harry, who smiled back.
Jean paused, cocked her head as if listening to something, Then she rose, and passed Harry's plate to Jubilee before saying, "Harry, the Professor wanted to ask if you're comfortable helping him with a few things? They may help us get in contact with your usual guardians, and perhaps experience fewer…miscommunications of the type you thought we had made when we retrieved you."
Having nothing better to do, Harry shrugged. "Sure. We definitely need to get word to my friends that I'm okay. They're probably panicked by now. And if you turn out to be right about me being a—a mutant—then maybe you can help me."
Jean led him back to Professor Xavier's study, but it was empty. She crossed to the bookshelf that Logan had been leaning against last night, rested a hand against it, and closed her eyes for a moment. Harry heard a tiny click and a low beep, and Jean turned back to him.
"Harry, I should make clear that our…operation to come and get you and your cousin is not a normal function of any branch of the U.S. government. Quite aside from our perfectly aboveboard existence as a school, this manor is also Professor Xavier's private estate, from which he operates a somewhat…extralegal organization for the benefit of both mutants and mankind, which we call the X-Men. Professor Xavier trusts you with this secret on the grounds that you showed admirable restraint in keeping your own secret."
Jean pulled at the side of the bookcase, which swung forward silently as though on hinges. Were he not used to secret passages at Hogwarts, Harry thought idly, he might have been more startled. Instead, Harry merely inclined his head, and followed Jean into what looked like a lift—a guess that was borne out when the floor began to judder. When the doors opened again, it was onto a sterile white-tiled hallway very distinct from the warm, simplified Edwardian design of the main house.
Jean led Harry to a perfectly round door—of metal or plastic, he couldn't tell—set into the left-hand wall of the corridor. Within, Professor Xavier waited with the blue-furred Beast.
"Ah, Mister Potter, excellent," said Xavier in his calm voice. "I am hoping you will be willing to assist Doctor McCoy here in some few experiments."
"What can I do, sir?" Harry asked curiously.
"We are particularly interested in how the access to magic is associated—or, as we may perhaps discover, how it is not—with the X-gene and the gestation of mutant abilities. You see, we hypothesize the two may be connected because, given the stories of your…exploits…as relayed to us by the enthusiastic Miss Sefton, it would not have been unusual for your mutant abilities to have manifested long before now, unless there was, if you follow, some reason why they would not have," said Beast, performing an effortless backflip and catching hold of a bar welded to the ceiling with his surprisingly dexterous feet.
After taking a moment to parse the labyrinthine sentence, Harry clarified, "You think that magic may be the reason my mutant powers have stayed hidden until now?"
"An admirably succinct and accurate summation," Beast said, with his usual fanged smile. "Normally, we find ourselves asking newly-awakened mutants—oftentimes younger even than yourself—if they have recently suffered some danger, trauma, or emotional upheaval. For your cousin, this creature encounter seems to have done the trick of unlocking a potential he had only guessed at. If Miss Sefton is to be believed, however—and it would be most uncharacteristic of her to lie—you have encountered such distress with what seems to me to be rather alarming frequency."
Unable to argue with that assessment, Harry merely shrugged, and nodded.
"It is therefore within the realm of scientific possibility—and thus experimental inquiry—that there is a…magical explanation for why we have seen no recognizable mutant flux from you on our sensors until now."
"So what do we do?" Harry asked cautiously. Beast shuffled along the bar to a workstation, gesturing Harry to follow.
"Bloodwork, primarily," Beast replied, dropping lightly back to the floor. He picked up a small vial and some kind of plastic device that would presumably draw the blood. "Unless magic has a better method?" he asked, noting Harry's apprehension.
Harry shook his head. "It's against the law to use magic outside of school before you come of age. The Ministry sends you a warning, but you can be expelled and have your wand snapped."
"How very interesting," Beast mused, apparently to distract Harry as he took Harry's hand and readied the lance. "I presume there are provisions in this law for accidents or self-defense?"
"Supposedly," Harry scoffed.
"I'm curious what you mean by that, Harry," Xavier cut in.
Harry turned his head to face the Professor. "I was told on good authority that those provisions are written in the law," Harry explained, remembering some of Hermione's History notes. "But there is apparently a wide margin of error, because I received an official warning three years ago when a House Elf smashed a pudding in my Aunt and Uncle's house. Since the Elf wasn't supposed to be there, they registered magic use and assumed it was me."
"Most curious," Beast pronounced, drawing Harry's attention again as he realized that Beast was finished collecting blood. "As there is unlikely to be a computer controlling such a thing in your world, that would suggest some sort of bug or tracer placed upon you."
Harry shrugged, certain he did not know the answer. "I got a letter from the Improper Use of Magic Office last night, but I never got the chance to read it." He accepted a piece of gauze for his pricked finger. "I dropped it when the attack happened."
"Quite understandable," said Xavier. "Now, if Doctor McCoy is done with you for the moment—" he got an absent nod from Beast. "—then perhaps you would like to accompany me to meet our British contact, Lord Braddock?"
Harry shrugged again but moved to follow, wondering vaguely if this obviously-English Braddock was any relation to the Slytherin boy in his year, Malcolm Braddock. Harry didn't know Malcolm well, probably because the weedy boy wasn't one of the usual antagonists of Harry's Gryffindor friends.
Xavier turned his wheelchair, which glided smoothly back out into the hallway and down to the last door set in the same wall. They passed several doors on the other side of the corridor, and Harry noticed that the hall ended in another door, larger than the others. The door they entered, however, led them into a large conference room full of computers and other equipment.
Jean was inside, standing behind Scott, who was seated at a computer. On the screen was a blond-haired, blue-eyed young man, who seemed to be about Harry's age. He looked tall and fit, but would otherwise have been relatively unremarkable except for the patch over his left eye.
"Thanks for helping smooth things over, Brian," Jean was saying.
"I wish I could do more," the man onscreen replied. His accent was very refined—the sort of near-perfect RP Harry associated with his Hufflepuff acquaintance, Justin Finch-Fletchley. "Things have been…more tense…for a few weeks now, and nobody wants to talk to me about it. The ordinary wizards are not fans of mine, considering me something of a blasphemer. Still. What is it you say in America?" He grinned. "Money talks."
Scott looked around, and noticed Harry and Xavier. "Ah, the Professor just arrived," he told Brian, sliding his chair to the side so that the newcomers could approach.
"Good morning, Lord Braddock," said Xavier, rolling up to the screen. Harry followed, a step behind.
"Good afternoon, Professor Xavier," Brian shot back, chuckling at their time difference. "And is that the guest of honour with you?"
"Yes, indeed," Xavier agreed. "Lord Braddock, Harry Potter. Mister Potter, the young Lord Brian Braddock."
Not sure exactly how he was supposed to react, Harry nodded to Braddock.
"Too formal, Professor," Braddock laughed. "Mister Potter, I had planned to contact the Ministry this afternoon to let them know you are safe, but quite frankly, given what Scott and Jean have told me, I am beginning to think that it may be…not in your best interests," he finished carefully.
Harry found himself shrugging again. "The Ministry thinks I'm mad," he said plainly. "The Minister refuses to believe that Voldemort is back."
Braddock blinked, apparently at Harry's easy acceptance, but did not flinch or otherwise react to Voldemort's name.
"The so-called Lord Voldemort has returned?" Braddock repeated. "Well now… I daresay that explains quite a lot. If your Ministry will be unhelpful, should I instead inform Albus Dumbledore of your whereabouts?"
Harry scowled at the mention of Dumbledore—who had left him at Privet Drive, disconnected and undefended—but reluctantly nodded. Harry might not be well-pleased with the man, but he still held great influence in the magical community. He glanced at Professor Xavier. "Professor Dumbledore will probably insist I come back," Harry admitted. "But he'd also be able to tell my friends I'm okay," he added hurriedly. "So they don't worry."
"It would be my honour, Mister Potter," Braddock told him earnestly. "Do you think we could discuss the so-called Lord Voldemort at another time?"
Harry thought for a moment, then shrugged. "I suppose so. I'll just hope you believe me over the Daily Prophet."
"I am always more inclined to believe a person over a paper, Mister Potter. I shall look forward to that conversation. When you do return to England, perhaps we can meet for tea—" Braddock glanced to the side for a moment, then looked back and explained briefly, "Duty calls." He began to move out of shot, but then glanced back. "Mister Potter, before I go, I feel it may interest you to know that the Trace charm your Ministry uses to detect magical activity has an active range of only about 600 miles, and Professor Xavier's estate is not actively monitored by the U.S. Department of Magic. Now I really must dash. It has been a pleasure, Mister Potter; Professor, as ever."
"Likewise," said Xavier.
Harry nodded again, and the screen went blank. He liked Braddock, despite his formality, and was grateful that he was willing to avoid the Ministry. The tip about the Trace was interesting too. He turned to Professor Xavier. "Does that mean—"
"Yes, Harry," Xavier answered, before Harry could even pose the question. "My home is considered a 'magical dwelling', so magical activity here is not investigated—I imagine rather like your own school. So, if you will again promise that you will not endanger my students, I have no problem with you practicing and studying magic while you are staying here. I would ask that you be wary of technology, however; we have found in the past that sophisticated electronics tend to react poorly to nearby magical activity. I have no doubt that Doctor McCoy has a dozen theories as to why this is so, which he will be only too happy to share with you. Come, while we await an answer from Lord Braddock, let us see if Henry is done with your bloodwork."
Harry followed Professor Xavier back out of what was apparently the War Room, only to meet Beast standing outside it.
"Samples are culturing," Beast said without preamble. "However, based on what I overheard, I would like to get an idea of Harry's capabilities with magic directly, Professor." He inclined his head at the door opposite them.
"If Harry consents," Xavier temporized, but Harry nodded. Being unable to use magic over the summer holiday was an endless source of annoyance. Xavier clarified, "What Doctor McCoy is suggesting, Harry, is for you to spend some time in our holographic training facility, which our X-Men have dubiously dubbed the Danger Room. Within the Danger Room, we are able to create false environments for training purposes."
Receiving another nod from Harry, Xavier followed Beast through the door into what looked like an observatory. Through a large window, Harry looked down on…a jungle? A stepped pyramid rose through a thick green canopy that obscured the ground.
Beast crossed to a control panel, and said over his shoulder, "The simulation is at a manageable level considering Wolverine is inside, Professor; he's training some of his protégés: Miss Blaire and Miss Pryde—and it appears Miss Lee is expected to join them shortly as well."
"Right-o!" said a cheerful voice behind them. Harry spun around, startled, to see Jubilee dressed again as she had been in Little Whinging. "So, did I hear right? You're coming in with us?"
Harry shrugged. "Apparently."
Jubilee grinned at him, settling her pink sunglasses over her eyes. "Then let's get this party started!"
She grabbed Harry's arm and dragged him over to a section of floor in the corner marked off by a yellow line, then hammered a button on the wall. The panel tipped downward sharply, and they both slid into the jungle. Jubilee skipped gracefully at the bottom and kept her feet, but Harry tumbled. Clambering upright, he had to run to keep up as Jubilee darted into the trees at once.
"Given this setup, and the lack of Danger Room hostiles, I'm guessing we're playing Keep-Away with Wolverine. Three on one is hard-mode for us, but I bet four on one will surprise him at first," Jubilee mused as Harry scrambled after her, drawing his wand. He didn't like the way the trees pressed in all around them. Between that and the vague ambient sounds, it was impossible to tell if they were about to stumble upon someone—or be suddenly found themselves.
"So what should I expect?" Harry said in a low voice as Jubilee finally slowed down.
"Kitty and Alison are out here somewhere, and so is Logan," she explained. "For us, it's kinda like Capture the Flag; there's some kinda relic or something—probably in that pyramid—that we're supposed to get and guard. Logan is probably in the jungle hunting us. Depending on the difficulty, he might have handicapped himself, like a clothespin on the nose or a blindfold." She shrugged. "He usually wins anyway, but it's about us getting better."
"Can we fight back?" Harry asked.
Jubilee tilted her head. "We can," she allowed, then tilted the other way. "But we'd probably lose unless we all attack at once and have the drop on him."
"Mutants usually just have one power, right?" Harry changed the subject.
"One or two related ones, usually; at least when they're our age." Jubilee agreed with a nod. "If you live to be as old as Logan, you might develop secondary mutations or get some other kind of enhancements, like his claws."
"Claws?" said Harry nervously.
"Oh yeah, he's got these metal claws that grow outta the backs of his hands," she said, realizing he wouldn't know, and indicating the indentations between her knuckles. "They're not a mutation, they were from some kinda procedure he went through in like the sixties, or something. He doesn't like to talk about it," she added, hurriedly. "So don't ask. My power…I call 'em fireworks. They're like…these little energy blasts?" She seemed uncertain how to describe them. "Usually they just make a bit of noise and a bright light, like a flash-bang, but I'm learning to put more power behind 'em so they can actually blast. Dazzler's power is to turn sound into light blasts, but her control is waaay better than mine. Shadowcat can phase through solid objects, but only for as long as she can hold her breath, coz she can't breathe while she's inside a wall or whatever, y'know?"
Harry felt his head spin a little, but boiled it down to the essential points as he began following Jubilee again, remembering that he had seen Dazzler's power when she blasted the sentinel back at Privet Drive.
"Ugh, where's the pyramid?" Jubilee groused. "It was right in front of the control room…"
"Which direction does the control room face?" Harry asked.
"North, why?" said Jubilee.
In answer, Harry held his wand flat in his palm and said, "Point me." The wand twitched, until it was pointing slightly to their left. "That's North," he told her, nodding in the indicated direction.
"Sweet," she drew the word out. "Any way we can call the others here?"
Harry thought for a moment. "I can send up sparks, but they'd be hard to see through the trees and Wolverine might spot them too. Or I could try to summon them, but that would actually drag them off their feet and straight toward us, regardless of any obstacles…"
"Oookay, guess we just keep searching," Jubilee chuckled.
"Or you could look down," said a new voice, near Harry's ankles. He jumped back, bringing his wand around, but made himself calm down. The voice had belonged to a girl he hadn't yet met, who was somehow chest-deep in the ground. She had light brown hair pulled into a ponytail, and laughing hazel eyes. Harry also saw a silver chain around her neck, but couldn't see what, if anything, was hanging from it.
"Hey Kitty," said Jubilee at once. "Where's Alison? Have we got the relic yet? What was it?" Then she added, "Good reflexes, by the way, Harry."
"The relic was Wolverine," Kitty sighed, climbing carefully out of the ground. "When we opened the coffin in the pyramid, he jumped out and knocked out Dazzler. I dropped out, but I heard him say the game was changed. Now he's out hunting and we have to retrieve Dazzler. I'm guessing he left her inside. Can you fly?" she asked Harry.
"Not without a broomstick," he replied. "I'm Harry, obviously."
"Kitty Pryde," she said. "And uh…broomstick?"
"He's a magic-user," Jubilee told Kitty. "Like Amanda."
"Got it," Kitty said, then bit her lip.
"I can wake Dazzler up if we get to her," Harry offered. "Or carry her, if she won't wake." He twitched his wand to make his point, and Kitty nodded.
"Cool," said Jubilee. "So, we get back in, I hold off Logan, Harry gets Alison, Kitty snags me, and we bail."
"Where do we have to go?" Harry asked, as the other two made to leave.
"Nnnno idea!" Jubilee answered cheerfully. "Hopefully just getting out the pyramid will be enough for Logan to call it, but if not, we'll have to figure something else out." With that, she darted off once more, with Kitty on her tail, leaving Harry to catch up once again.
The short journey to the pyramid was uneventful, but reminded Harry unpleasantly of the Third Task. The jungle was somehow even worse—the green pressed in on all sides and made travelling in a single direction almost impossible. They constantly had to pause so that Harry could use the Four-Point Spell to correct their course. Harry had to remind himself several times that they were both indoors and underground. He wondered just how big the so-called Danger Room really was. Finally, they reached the pyramid, which reminded Harry of nothing so much as something out of one of Dudley's computer games.
"You wanna take care of scouting, Kitty?" Jubilee whispered. The brunette nodded, and sank into the Earth once more. Jubilee glanced at Harry, and pressed a finger to her lips. She shifted closer so they could talk, but kept her head turned toward the entrance of the pyramid. "Technically it doesn't matter if we whisper, since Wolverine will hear us anyway, but you're supposed to train like it's reality." Harry nodded and turned halfway to keep watch over the other side, though he jumped a little when Jubilee pressed her back to his. "This is proper form," she explained. "I've completely got your six, and you've got mine, see?"
Harry nodded again, but realized she likely couldn't see him and said, "Yeah. How long will Kitty need?"
"Depends on whether Logan's inside or not," Jubilee said easily. "If we don't hear back in five, we'll assume she's captured and go in after her."
Harry opened his mouth to agree, but froze. He thought he saw a bush shiver some way along the edge of the clearing where the pyramid stood. "Would Wolverine shake a bush?" he whispered to Jubilee.
"Only on purpose," she said. "If you saw it, we should attack. You need me to do it?"
"No," he replied, already taking aim at where he had seen movement. "Stupefy!" A jet of red light shot from Harry's wand and passed right through the bush that had moved. Harry quickly followed up with several more Stunning Spells in the direction the shimmer had been moving, in case the first had missed. "What are the odds that got him?" he asked.
"Almost zero," she said, just as bubbly as ever. "But like I said, you treat training as if it were real. Attacking there would be the right thing to do in a reasonable situation; it's just that fighting Logan is never reasonable."
"He's a good fighter?" Harry inferred.
"He'd say he's the best," Jubilee replied. "He may be right. Still, the rest of us have to learn somewhere."
Harry sighed, and kept an eye out for any other errant movements in the trees, but saw nothing. He was about to say something else when he felt Jubilee tense, but she relaxed instantly and hissed, "Kitty's back."
Kitty had not emerged from the ground, instead phasing back through the wall of the pyramid with Dazzler over her shoulder. Harry and Jubilee moved to meet her.
"Awesome," said Jubilee. "Now, we should get into the woods before Logan finds us—"
"Too late, Jubes," growled a voice from the treeline beside them. All of them spun around, and Wolverine dropped from the canopy right in front of them.
Harry and Jubilee closed ranks in front of Kitty, who hastily set Dazzler down a short distance away, as carefully as she could. Wolverine advanced slowly, tilting his head to avoid Harry's Stunning Spell.
"I don't think so," he smirked. "Caught one o' those earlier. They sting."
Before Harry could wonder why the stunner hadn't rendered Wolverine unconscious, the small man had charged. Jubilee raised both hands, fingers splayed, and emitted what looked like globules of light, which detonated against Wolverine's body, staggering him slightly. Kitty sank into the ground, and Harry took aim again.
"Caespito!" he cried. There was a bang, and Wolverine suddenly tumbled to the floor. "Incarcerous!" Thick ropes flew from his wand tip and bound Wolverine head to foot.
"That won't keep him long," Jubilee warned him, but Harry just smirked. Seconds later, Kitty's hands emerged from the ground and seized Wolverine's ankles, dragging him down until he was buried to his neck. A moment later, she rose from the earth herself, smirking. She stuck her tongue out at Wolverine, then skipped back to Harry and Jubilee.
Harry, meanwhile, was racking his brains for the wand movement he had seen his Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Lupin use the year before. It had been a sort of flick…
"Mobilicorpus," he said carefully. He had only used the variation for plants before, and was pleased when Dazzler's limp form rose off the ground to float gently in midair beside them. "Now, let's get out of here."
"Don' bother," Wolverine grunted. "By the time I get outta this, you could be anywhere you needta be. End simulation." Immediately at his last words, the trees, dirt, and pyramid faded, leaving them standing in a vast, empty, white-tiled room. Beneath Wolverine, four tiles were lowered several feet.
As they watched, the tiles rose back up to sit flush with the rest of the floor. With a distinctive snikt, three claws stabbed out of the ropes from about where each of Wolverine's hands were. A moment later, the ropes all snapped and fell, vanishing into smoke as they hit the floor.
"Good combo, new guy, Kittycat," he added, nodding to Harry and Kitty. "Jubes, how many times I gotta tell ya ta hit me while I'm down Ya don' see Belle hesitate, do ya?"
"I don't have super-strength, Logan," Jubilee said patiently. It sounded like an old argument.
"Still not an excuse," Wolverine snapped. "They're down like that, you can blind 'em."
Jubilee just rolled her eyes. "Not everyone can regrow their eyes." Without waiting for another answer, she turned and walked back toward the control room, visible once more in what Harry thought was the direction they'd come. Harry and Kitty followed, with Wolverine grumblingly bringing up the rear. Kitty, on Harry's left, grinned at him and mouthed Nice combo. She held out a hand, and Harry high-fived her. Evidently praise from Wolverine was rare. Harry heard Wolverine snort, but Kitty's grin only grew, prompting Harry to grin back.
They exited the Danger Room by a small lift that brought them back into the control room, where Professor Xavier, Beast, and Cyclops were waiting. At the sight of the latter, Kitty and Jubilee drew themselves up as if standing at attention, but Wolverine simply grunted, "S'with the crowd, Chuck?"
"We were most interested in Harry's capabilities, Logan," Xavier answered easily. "What was that red bolt?" he asked Harry.
"A Stunning Spell, sir," Harry answered. "It's supposed to freeze or knock the target unconscious. I guess I underpowered it…" He didn't actually think so, but had no other explanation for why Wolverine wouldn't have been properly Stunned.
"Nah, it hurt plenty," Wolverine growled. "I'm just not that easy to drop. Good practice, Wiz." He clapped Harry on the back, then left. Both Kitty and Jubilee followed him, waving back to Harry.
Harry frowned at Wolverine's back. "It's not supposed to work like that," he mumbled. "The only things that I've seen shake off a stunner like that are huge magical creatures like dragons or acromantulas. Giant spiders," he clarified, at the general puzzled silence.
"Well, I must say, magic seems to be extremely flexible," Beast put in. "I would very much like to borrow young Harry for a discussion of magic sometime, if he would be willing to oblige me."
Harry shrugged. "I'm not an expert," he admitted. "You'd have better luck with my friend Hermione."
"Though patience be a tired mare, yet she will plod," Beast recited. "The Bard, naturally. I hope to meet this Hermione someday soon. If you will follow me, Harry, we can see to Miss Blaire." He smiled and led the way to a door opposite his lab, which turned out to be an infirmary. He helped guide Dazzler onto a bed as Harry cancelled his locomotion charm, and began inspecting her. After a moment, he pronounced, "No fracture or concussion, I am happy to say; she is merely unconscious. As soon as she wakes, she is ready to go. Though, of course, that may yet be a few…"
He trailed off as Harry pointed his wand at Dazzler. "Rennervate," he said sharply.
There was a flash of brilliantly red light, and Dazzler stirred at once. She cracked her eyes, winced at the fluorescent lights, and looked around. "Man, did I miss the whole training?" she grumbled. "Wolverine's gonna have my ass for that…"
"Fascinating," Beast said, having pulled out a palmtop computer. He poked eagerly at the buttons. "'Rennervate', you said? From Latin, of course; 'to energise'. Excellent, excellent… I shall have to stop putting off my study of magic. Perhaps Miss Sefton can provide me with a primer…" He shook his head, evidently to clear the errant thoughts, returned the computer to his pocket, and asked, "How do you feel, Miss Blaire?"
"Like Wolverine got the drop on me," she groaned. "How long was I out?"
"Less than twenty minutes," Beast assured her. "Mister Potter was able to awaken you safely without having to wait hours."
The girl gave Harry a small but dazzling smile. "Awesome, I haven't lost a day of practice." She got to her feet gingerly, as though expecting a dizzy spell, but straightened almost immediately. "That's awesome," she repeated. "Thanks Doc."
"Well, Mister Potter, I daresay that wraps things up here," said Beast. He glanced up and down the hallway, and Harry imitated him, noticing as he did that Professor Xavier was nowhere to be found. "Perhaps you may wish to explore the mansion some more, while we wait to hear back from Lord Braddock?" Beast escorted Harry back to the lift he had taken with Jean earlier. "Just be certain to push the bookshelf back into place when you leave at the top," he advised. Harry nodded. "Until next time, then," Beast added, as the doors slid closed before his smiling blue face.
Sirius was jerked from his second straight day of brooding in the drawing room of Grimmauld Place by the sound of the doorbell echoing through the house. There was nobody else home except for the kids cleaning out some upstairs bedrooms, and Dumbledore and Mad-Eye comparing notes on the search for Harry down in the basement kitchen, but having confirmed that there was no news, and still forbidden from leaving the house to help search himself, Sirius had taken to sulking up on the first floor.
Hearing the shrieks of his mother's roused portrait, Sirius heaved himself up and made his way downstairs. He stunned all the portraits as he passed, adding some extra twitches of his wand to shut the curtains over his mothers, and casting a Silencing Charm over them, before he opened the door.
"I keep telling you all not to ring the doorbell; it wakes up all the—" Sirius began, but then he froze. On the threshold was a tall, blond young man who looked about Harry's age, with his hands in the pocket of his long, brown muggle coat, and a patch over his left eye. He smiled gently when the door opened. "Who the ruddy hell are you?" Sirius demanded. "How did you find this house? Is that Polyjuice?"
Before the stranger could reply, Dumbledore's voice came from behind Sirius, down the hall from the kitchen. "No, Sirius, that is Lord Brian Braddock. Milord, this is…quite an unexpected surprise."
The stranger spoke calmly. "Not the first surprise I've had today, Mister Dumbledore, and not likely to be the last you will. If I may come in? I have some information about one of your students, which I doubt you wish bandied about the streets."
"Sorry, who is this? How are you here? How in the name of Merlin's—" Sirius interrupted, still flabbergasted that someone this young—someone he had never met—could possibly be in on the Fidelius-protected Secret of Grimmauld Place's location.
The stranger smiled his gentle smile, which made him seem far older and wiser than his still slightly-round face indicated. "Muggle land records, Mister Black. You will be pleased to know that this estate is still legally yours, so far as the Queen's government is concerned. After that, it was a simple matter of discovering the hidden door; the answer to which turned out to be this." He withdrew a hand from his pocket, and pulled up a golden chain around his neck to reveal a large Ruby set in a golden amulet. "Merlyn's Amulet of Right dispels illusions. I presume this was the Fidelius charm?" He added to Dumbledore, who nodded. "Well, you are well-hidden indeed. You needn't worry about others finding you; this is the only artefact of its type that I am aware of."
As the door closed behind him, Sirius grabbed the boy's arm. "You have news of Harry?" he asked, roughly. "He's okay?"
"Yes, Mister Black; I spoke to Harry and saw him well and safe not two hours ago. He is quite well—more than well, in fact, given the situation. I ran across a some indication that your Ministry is seeking Harry for a hearing, yes? Well, given where he presently is, you will be pleased to hear about an interesting legal precedent…"
Braddock kept talking, primarily to Dumbledore, as he followed the Headmaster down to the kitchen, but Sirius had slumped bonelessly against the front door the moment he heard that Harry was all right. He was all right. Pulling himself together, Sirius followed the others downstairs to hear more. Perhaps, with this news, Dumbledore would allow Sirius to go to him.
A/N: Huh. Sorry I let this one sit for so long. I honestly forgot how much fun this world was. Not that this chapter wanted to be written—it did NOT. It took forever to come up with what was going to happen, and even if you're generally a seat-of-your-pants writer (which I am), you do need some idea of where you're going or you'll never get anywhere. I don't really like this chapter, because it feels kinda all-over-the-place to me, but I'll leave it up to you guys to judge.
So. Harry's had a bit of an infodump about where he is and what's up (which hopefully wasn't too boring for the readers), and there's now a third established cute single girl for Harry "Oblivious" Potter to attempt to figure out. This still isn't a romance story, and obviously there's still no pairing decided.
For the record, not all of the students at Xavier's Academy are X-Men or even trainees. The only decided X-Men (and teachers) are Xavier himself, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Beast, Gambit, Rogue, and Storm; and the only actual cadets-in-training established so far are Nightcrawler, Iceman, Dazzler, Jubilee, and Shadowcat (the latter three under Wolverine's direct sponsorship). Everyone else is just a student, doing regular mutant schooling, rather like how not all Hogwarts students decided to join the D.A. in canon.
I've also thrown up a poll on my profile on FFN—would you guys like a forum to talk with/about me and my stories? I can't really imagine anyone does, but apparently that's a capability FFN has (I'm new to this whole fanfic thing, remember).