Disclaimer: Yeah, you caught me. My name's J. K. Rowling and I'm moonlighting as a fanfiction writer. Now that you've all digested the implausibility of that statement, no, I don't own anything, nor will I anytime soon. Happy now?
Author's Note: So, major apologies to everyone. I haven't written in this for so long…but I reread all my reviews the other day and they inspired me to finish this chapter finally. Thank you all for your support and I will do my best to update as soon as I can. I will warn you that this chapter is extremely long and nothing in particular occurs, but I had to write it. So enjoy and review everyone!
All around the Hall, a chain of gasps and furious murmuring spread as each pupil saw the yellow eyes, the blue fur, and the three-fingered hands.
"Oh my God…"
"What is it…?"
"'It' is my friend, so if ya'll don't want mah boot up your asses, you'd best play nice," Rogue snarled, turning to confront the whispers along the table.
"But…he's…blue." Harry said, bemused.
"Kurt was cursed …a gypsy witch cursed him as a baby as revenge on his mother," Kitty interrupted quickly, trying her best to recall the story they'd cooked up earlier. "…No one can find the cure…it's very difficult for him, but he, uh, keeps looking for some kind of, er…solution."
Hermoine gazed at the indigo figure at the Head Table with sympathy, completely missing the exasperated look Evan shot at Kitty. "How awful…"
"But, I swear, he's the sweetest kid you'll ever know!" Kitty continued hurriedly, trying to gain points for her scared friend.
Ron stared skeptically at her, but Harry switched his eyes to their fellow student on stage. It's very difficult for him…but he keeps looking for some kind of solution.
Story of my bloody life…Harry thought bitterly. But aloud, he defended the boy. "Hey, give him a chance…he can't be as bad as Malfoy, and Malfoy actually looks human."
"Givin' Malfoy a bit more credit than I would Harry…" Fred muttered darkly.
"I'm waiting to see which House he gets Sorted into first before I trust him." Ron announced.
Rogue glared at him, but Kitty nudged her, placation in her eyes. "That's really all we can ask, I guess." She agreed hurriedly, anxiety twisting her stomach at the plight of her friend. She closed her eyes and sent out a fretful prayer.
God, I know you've got a plan for us, but please…could you deal Kurt a good hand for once? She pleaded silently.
Meanwhile, Kurt was sweating like he was caught underneath all the spotlights of the Big Tent on the hottest day of the summer. He could see all the horrified faces, the hate, the fear, the suspicion…he felt like he was going to crack at any moment. But he desperately held himself together, knowing that the mission's secrecy was hinged on this performance.
Performance. It was a circus term, but it seemed to fit his life so well. He stared out at the people, the audience, and incredibly, he felt himself loosen up. Subconsciously, he could hear the announcer crying out in German "The Amazing Nightcrawler flies again!"
This isn't me…this is Nightcrawler, performing for these people in costume. Kurt told himself sternly.
And, amazingly, he suddenly found himself walking almost confidently to the stool, clambering onto it, and pulling the hat on over his pointy ears.
Immediately, there was silence, as though the world around him had departed briefly for a quick rest. He had little time for puzzlement however, before a soft voice seemed to speak directly into his ear.
"Fear is a strange thing, is it not? It can make some people do the most shameful things, and others, the most incredible."
Kurt was taken aback by the sudden, random philisophical rambling. "Um…yes?"
"But you know a great deal about fear already, don't you Kurt? I can see that you are of the latter group…good for you boy, I've always appreciated the ones who come in with a bit of spine." The voice added almost musingly, and Kurt was beginning to feel as though this was the type of conversation that could have continued with or without his presence.
"Not only bravery, but a nice dash of cunning and cleverness to even you out. And loyalty…my yes, you've got that in spades. Your friends are lucky indeed to have you on their sides. You give yourself too little credit; you would make an excellent leader." Kurt had never been good at accepting compliments, and to hear them from a talking hat, well, he was starting to feel a tad bit uncomfortable. He could see everyone staring at him expectantly, probably worried that he would wind up in their Houses.
"Ah, but you're not without your dark side…there's a fair bit of anger waiting to get out of you boy. You need to learn to control those emotions. And who better to teach you than those of the House of-
Kurt tore the Sorting Hat off his head eagerly, glad to be rid of the invasive voice. The presence in the hat reminded him strongly of telepathy, and some of the hat's words had stung a little too truly.
His cheering from his new Housemates was a great deal less enthusiastic than those of the others who had been Sorted, but he barely noticed. He strode to his table, unable to keep from smiling at the relieved looks from his teammates that were awaiting him. He tried to ignore the way the students he walked past withdrew from him, as though the slightest contact could infect them with some terrible affliction. The sight of his rather impressive molars probably weren't all that reassuring either.
Evan stood and enthusiastically slapped his best friend's hand, gripped it firmly, then pulled him into a one-armed embrace. "Yo yo, the K-Man has arrived people." He announced with a grin, releasing his friend.
"Someone has to keep you out of trouble," Kurt replied jokingly.
"Like you should be tha one ta talk, Fuzzy," Rogue muttered dryly, but, despite her tone, she was smiling.
Kitty lifted her eyes to the enchanted ceiling in silent thanks, and then hugged her friend warmly. She drew back and looked him in the eye. "See, I told you it'd be alright." She admonished him quietly.
Kurt could feel himself blushing and, for once, was relieved that his blue fur hid his skin so well. "No sveat Keety." He said breezily, sinking into the seat across from her, next to Hermoine. He gave her an innocent smile, or, as innocent as a smile that's 90 percent fang can be, and Hermoine returned it nervously.
By this time, the Headmaster had returned to the podium and was waiting patiently for silence. There was a brief wave of shushing, which left silence in its wake, and soon the whole Hall was waiting attentively.
"Congratulations to our newest students; I'm sure you will find your new roommates most accommodating." He inclined his head slightly to the X-Men, and almost unconsciously, they returned the gesture.
"We have one final business that needs attending to before we sample this glorious feast before us. I would like you to meet the newest members of our staff." He made a sweeping gesture behind him and Ororo, Logan, and the female professor Harry had had his eyes on earlier all stood.
"First, I am delighted to introduce Professor Illyana Dimitrov, who was brave enough to grace us with her presence as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. I can only hope that certain male members of the student body will not be so confounded by her beauty that they do not learn all she has to share."
She blushed slightly at Dumbledore's words, but smiled charmingly. There was scattered laughter, but Harry thought the Headmaster had a point. The woman looked hardly old enough to be a professor, and her delicate features seemed unsuited for a staff member.
"However, to quell any ideas of romantic daydreaming, I introduce to you the assistant Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Logan." Dumbledore added, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "He will be taking a slightly more…hands-on approach to the subject matter."
Logan put on his best leer and Rogue snorted quietly.
"Ah, tough luck." George said regretfully, still watching the slim lady professor as she applauded politely.
"And, I am thrilled to announce, we will be offering a new independent course, courtesy of one of Salem's finest witches, Professor Ororo Munroe." The X-Men clapped enthusiastically and Evan gave a loud whoop for the demure woman. Laughter broke out along the Gryffindor table and Ororo glared at her nephew warningly.
Dumbledore, on the other hand, simply smiled encouragingly. "Ah, it is always wonderful to see students so eager to learn." At these words, Evan, not looking to be labeled a brown-noser, sunk quickly into his seat. Dumbledore continued, unruffled.
"Professor Munroe will be offering a subject in which she is an expert: earth magic."
At these words, some of the students began to look interested.
"In due time, each of you will be given an opportunity to sign up. In the meantime, however…" He made a sweeping motion with his wand arm and food suddenly appeared on the serving platters before them, "Let us eat!"
"Finally!" Ron muttered rebelliously before tucking in with gusto.
Harry did likewise, sparing a glance for the newcomers around him, who were staring in astonishment at the food before them.
"Bit different than what you're used to?" He guessed in a friendly tone.
The girl named Kitty shook her head in amazement. "No we've never had so much-"
"Variety?" Kurt suggested.
"Or gotten it quite so-"
She glared at her furry classmate, who was obliviously savoring everything he could get his hands on.
"So how does your food arrive?" Ron asked, spraying chicken halfway across the table.
Hermoine looked positively disgusted. "For your information Ron, Salem's doesn't believe in the enslavement of house elves. They employ people the proper way."
"Oh here we go again," Fred murmured wearily, spearing a sausage with his fork and adding it to his pile of victuals. "More about the bloody elves."
"You know, I have to admit I'm truly impressed the way she somehow turns his name into an insult. That's real talent." George said thoughtfully, watching her as she launched into a tirade about S.P.E.W. to the wide-eyed Kitty. "She's a bit like Mum that way."
Harry spooned a generous portion of mashed potatoes to his plate and let the dialogue roll over him, feeling happier then he had been the entire summer. Even Hermoine and Ron's quarreling, which usually annoyed him to no end, seemed comforting and familiar.
He glanced up to find the strange green eyes of the one they called Rogue locked onto him. He felt suddenly uncomfortable, as though she was assessing him, deciding his fate in some way.
She didn't say anything for a moment, then suddenly jerked her head toward the quarreling pair. "Do your friends fight much?" She asked in her strange accent.
"Well, not really seriously…they just, sort of…quibble. It's their way of showing affection, I suppose. You'll get used to it."
"Oh, believe me, if it's one thing Ah'm used to, it's arguin'." She said, looking less imposing.
Feeling more at ease, Harry reached awkwardly across the table, offering his hand. "I'm Harry Potter, and those two over there are Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger."
Rogue didn't even blink at the sound of his name, which he found both surprising and gratifying. "Mah name's Rogue, as Ah'm sure you know." She accepted his hand in her gloved one and shook it firmly.
He did. It wasn't easy to forget a name like that.
"What year will you and your friends be in?" Harry asked politely, returning to his food.
"Kurt, Kitty, an' Ah are all fifth years, Evan'll be in the fourth year, an' Jean an' Scott are seventh years." She explained.
"You'll be with us than," he said, gesturing toward his friends, "The twins, Fred and George, are seventh years like your friends." The twins acknowledged Harry briefly, then returned to their discussions with Evan and Lee.
"Glad ta have someone decent in with me then," She said pleasantly.
Harry accepted the compliment with a smile. "You say that now…just wait 'til you get to know us better. You might change your mind."
She laughed. "I doubt that."
"So, what made you decide to attend Hogwarts for a year? I mean, it certainly can't be an easy transition." Hermoine asked Kitty with interest.
Kitty considered this for a moment as she twirled her food around on her fork. "I suppose it's because we all, like, enjoy a challenge and we wanted to meet new people. We don't really get out much." She added regretfully.
"For shame fraulein, we meet interesting new people all the time!" Kurt interjected through a mouthful of chicken leg.
Kitty glared at him, the words "Interesting people not trying to kill us" passing unspoken between them.
"Well, if there's one thing we've got enough of, it's interesting people." Ron informed them, glancing up at the staff table.
Kitty and Kurt followed his gaze to Hagrid, who was obviously telling a story to the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor while waving an oversized turkey leg animatedly.
"So, is he, uh-" Kitty started timidly.
"Hagrid? He's great, he's just a bit…bigger than life." Ron assured them, watching Professor Flitwick nimbly dodge flying turkey meat.
From Ron's other side, Harry chimed in cheerfully. "Honestly, he's probably the least intimidating teacher we have here."
Hermoine gave a derisive snort. "If you want to call her a teacher."
The Hogwarts students laughed in acknowledgement, all trying to share their own Divination stories with their new friends at once. "I'll never forget when you left Hermoine…that memory will always keep me going through her class." Ron interjected with an almost blissful smile.
Hermoine blushed but raised her chin defiantly. "Enough is enough. I don't know how you two can still stand it."
"It does make an excellent naptime." Harry said thoughtfully.
Amidst the laughter, Neville scooted closer to the group of new students and nervously gestured to the staff table.
"Does your, uh, Professor Logan always look so…?" He trailed off in uncertainly.
"Happy to be alive?" Kurt supplied helpfully.
Rogue grinned. "He might have jest a bit of an attitude problem."
"He's really not all that bad, he's just kinda anti-social. He's not as mean as pretends to be; in fact, once you get to know him-"
"He's downright cuddly." Kurt finished with a wink. Kitty made a face at him and tossed a biscuit at him. Without even glancing up from his plate, he caught the dinner roll with his tail and daintily stuffed it into his mouth.
"Ugh, you're such a showoff," she said disgustedly.
To Kitty's annoyance (and Kurt's surprise), everyone was utterly amazed by their new Housemate's hidden quirk. Whistles and murmurs of admiration circled the table.
"Man, you got a tail?" Lee asked enviously.
Kurt, sliding easily into "Play to the Crowd" mode, grinned and spread his arms innocently. "Vhat, doesn't everybody?"
Shaky laughter greeted the joke. "Doesn't it, you know, get in the way?" A third-year girl asked with wide eyes.
"Vell, it makes clothes shopping a bit of a hassle," Kurt conceded with a shrug. "But it's very useful."
"I bet it is," Lavender Brown muttered appreciatively. Kitty's head whipped up and she glared down the table at the giggling girls.
Kurt seemed unaware of the comments, though his ears turned an interesting shade of violet. "Actually, vhen I vas a member of the circus, it really helped vith balance and, of course, vith my catching as vell."
Silence greeted this statement. Then, after a moment had passed-
"You were in the circus?"
Now he definitely looked uncomfortable. "I vas, um, raised by gypsies…and, they taught me acrobatics…" He began, not sure if he had gone too far.
He needn't have worried. "That is so amazing," Parvati Patil gushed, "I bet you met all sorts of fascinating people and saw the world." She prompted, doe-eyed.
"Well, not the whole world," He said, "Just Europe and America."
There were appreciative murmurs around the table and questions were immediately fired at him from every direction. He couldn't help but notice his space had suddenly become compromised as his fellow Gryffindors (mostly the female members) scooted closer to hear him speak.
Kurt was blown away by this sudden change of heart. He was used to attention and perhaps even the laughter of an audience or his friends, but he had never been admired before. It was a feeling he could get used to. He smiled widely and tried to catch Kitty's eye, to show her she had been right about him fitting in, but she was looking obstinately in another direction, chatting with Lee. His heart sank slightly, but his expression remained fixed as he turned back to his admirers. He didn't even notice Kitty sneak a glance in his direction.
The newcomers and their fellow students ate and talked for what seemed like hours. Eventually, even Kurt couldn't even eat anymore and his eyes started to droop dangerously. The combination of emotional fatigue, delicious food, and atmosphere was proving to be a powerful depressant. He blinked repeatedly, sat up, and looked about him to see if anyone had noticed. Instead, he saw that he was not alone in his drowsiness.
All along the table, he witnessed mouths opening in yawns and eyelids falling. Some of the younger students had even laid their heads on their now-empty place-settings. Nearby, Fred, George, Lee, and Evan were deep in a hushed conversation that probably would have proved interesting to any professor or janitor. They swiped several cupcakes and sweets and stuffed them in napkins to be enjoyed at a later time.
Finally, the staff made the announcement that it was time for the students to make their way to their separate houses. They arose gratefully, calling goodbyes to friends and flowing toward the staircases.
Kurt raised a hand in farewell to Jean and Scott as he was carried away by his housemates. He was almost too weary to notice that the students outside of the Gryffindors still watched him with trepidation and were careful not to walk too closely.
The press of students carried the X-Men along to their new Houses, in some cases dragging them away from fascinating portraits, moving staircases, suits of armor and other unusual scenery that was commonplace for Hogwarts students. They finally reached the portrait of the Fat Lady and Hermoine, who, along with Ron, had recently been made a prefect, pushed herself forward.
"The new password's 'cuttlefish,'" She said confidently.
Ron glanced at Harry and rolled his eyes. "She's a bloody natural at this," He muttered. He gave his friend an almost apologetic smile and Harry knew Ron still felt guilty he had been made prefect instead of Harry. In all honesty, Harry was relieved he didn't have to worry about the extra duty; he had enough on his plate.
The portrait swung open and the Gryffindor students climbed inside, eager for bed. Kurt and his fellow newcomers gaped openly at their surroundings as they were led to their separate dorms. He bid good night to Rogue and Kitty and followed Harry and Ron to the boy's staircase, then gave Evan a final high-five as he headed off to his room.
He entered the room and was amazed to find a bed already made for him, his trunk waiting at the foot. He glanced at Harry, who shrugged.
"Nobody misses much here at Hogwarts," He said, as though this explained everything.
Kurt fell back on his bed and stared up at its hangings thoughtfully. "This is going to be a very interesting year," He mused quietly. Then he grinned briefly and rolled over, falling asleep without even bothering to change.
Thanks for reading everyone! If you review, I promise I'll deliver more...deal?