Chapter 8: arrivals and attention

"Phew, we made it!"

Half an hour later, -without any help from the paintings- Felix and his party arrived at the giant doors of the entrance hall. Somehow they had found the way by only relying on Harry's memories. When they saw the huge doors, they vividly remembered themselves sneaking inside, and then being taken by surprise by Filch and Peeves.

It was refreshing to reminisce on their own memories again… envisioning Harry's memories was tiring, and it left them feeling fuzzy and irritable. They took their time to recover from that now…In half an hour, the students would be arriving through the same doors. During that time, they'd try to relax and settle down a bit after their first encounter with the Hogwarts' teachers.

Jenna was playing with a fire orb in a corner, leaning against the wall, a Psynergy one, and the glow calmed and warmed her in the chilly grand room. Picard and Sheba sat on the staircase, clearing their minds. Picard was leaning against one of the cold marble statues that lined the stairs, and Sheba was leaning against him, sighing contently when he put his arm around her, letting her rest.

All Sheba's envious feelings from before vanished with that simple kind gesture, because she knew he'd never try to do that with Trelawney. Sheba snuggled deep into his arms, putting her head on his chest while faking to be slumbering, savouring every moment and enjoying his warmth. It wasn't Jenna's and Felix' kind of body heat, but it was a gentle, cosy warmth that never became uncomfortable. Soon, she was sleeping lightly, breathing calmly.

Felix watched them, glad that everything was okay now, and smiled sadly when he saw his sister using Psynergy. He had allowed her to, and he was happy to see the almost therapeutic effect it had on her. He was also reminded of his resolve not to use his powers himself, and he strengthened it. He started walking around, striding from one corner of the voluminous hall to the other, taking in deep and cooling breaths, to calm his wildly beating heart.

He was mentally preparing for the big moment, when all those people would come streaming in.

When they'd have to 'blend in', and act as if they had just come in, along with the others.

When all kinds of questions would be asked.

When they'd meet Harry again.

When people would…

… he stopped thinking. So many things could happen, so many buttons could be pushed, his party could reveal their powers, or they could make other people get angry, they could say odd things, or say too little, and, and, and…

Felix forced himself to stop pacing around frantically, and stood still in the centre of the room, on the carpet that muffled his hard steps, surrounded by tons of beige marble and stone and memories and magic, and the walls that would be their home for a year. A cool chill blew across his shoulders. He shuddered, unprotected by his heavy scarf, his neck exposed where his ponytail didn't cover his skin. His heart was still thumping loudly, and he faintly wondered when it would finally break out of its cage.

He felt an inexplicable urge to use his powers, to make things grow, to shake the building, to destroy or to heal, but he restrained himself. It were just nerves, probably. Since his very early teens, he had been exposed to danger and harsh conditions. Growing up fast was essential in Prox, and as the one who would have to betray his own village, 'nerves' weren't alien to him. Often he had felt this way, the nervous tension driving him to a dangerous edge of his consciousness, but he always returned to reality when the feared moment arrived. By then he was prepared, but that didn't take away the fact that he was slowly beginning to panic.

Ten more minutes. His deep connection with nature enabled him to tell the time exactly. The students would be arriving soon, so soon…His brown eyes, widened from before, now dropped close, and Felix felt himself breathing slowly, almost shallowly. He felt the air run through his lungs, and a faint numbness spread through his body. The fog in his mind cleared away, and he regained his rationality, and his determination. The little crisis was over.

Felix calmly strode to the middle of the hall, and faced the doors. With a soft, warm gaze, he observed them. A glint of a challenge flashed in his eyes before he turned his back to them, his posture now full of confidence, his expression showing his change in attitude. A victorious smile brightened up his features as he pushed some of his bangs behind his ears.

Let's do this.

With a look that couldn't be mistaken, showing his identity of a leader and someone who never gave up, he inspected his party.

Picard returned the look, and nodded with a smile, his golden eyes gleaming softly. For him, Felix had passed the test again, and he would be glad to follow him in everything he wanted from them.

I won't let you down.

Sheba glanced at her leader from under Picard's silver-blue headdress, shoving the veil away a little with one hand she didn't need to cling to the Lemurian. Her emerald eyes gleamed cunningly and ready to face this new way of living.

You can count on me.

Jenna had been observing her brother for a while. She had been a little worried at his irritable pacing and the red blush that had formed on his cheeks, but she had clearly seen when a new wind had blown through his soul. The warmth of the fireball in her hand was no comparison for the warmth that had flowed through her heart at the sight. Felix was himself again, down-to-earth, wise and strong. Jenna smiled happily when she felt his piercing gaze on her.

Ready when you are, my brother.

Felix gave them all an appraising nod in return, and retreated to a safe spot near the entrance. A few minutes later, he was gladly joined by his party, his friends, and his family…

We're ready now.

And ready was exactly what the had to be. The sky had darkened, with heavy September clouds rolling and tossing about a few miles above ground level. They were almost showing off, and Sheba started to wonder if they hadn't turned up only because Dumbledore wanted to set the atmosphere for the new first years.

Picard got the chills when he heard, and nearly felt the raindrops tinkling against the building, dousing the hall in a rumbling sound, that rose to the loud sound of a washing river quickly. He moved a little to indicate that he was getting up, and Sheba let him go. The mariner lightly stepped down the stairs, soon followed by the wind Adept, and joined Felix down by the doors. The air had cooled off again, and the rain seemed to seep through the pores of the walls, to settle down on their faces. Jenna snatched the fireball out of the air quickly, and completed the party. In silence, they waited, every one of them harbouring anxious and curious feelings towards the muffled rattling of the carriages coming towards them.

Then, in a matter of moments it all happened. Where the sound of the rain had lingered, a low thud, followed by the mighty creaking of the enormous doors, filled the hall. Hagrid pushed open the wooden panels, dripping wet, and he was gone again before Felix and his allies could even say hello to him. The wind suddenly bellowed inside, bringing the wetness inside with it. Jenna yelped and scooted back, deeper into the castle, and away from the offending fluid. Sheba decided to take her distance, too, and Picard and Felix moved a little towards the sides of the room. It felt as if a giant monster was emerging from outside, its force threatening and deadly, but they remained calm.

Hagrid returned soon, and this time, he was followed by a flood of moving, soaking wet bodies, that hurried to get inside. Jenna and Sheba were separated from their friends quickly in the entering masses, but Felix and Picard managed to keep a clear view on them from their still relatively vacant spot. When Hagrid had ushered the last students inside, he moved past the two of them, and greeted them hastily, but warmly.

"Hey, there you are! I've been wond'ring already… well, I've gotta get these closed now. Urrggg…" Hagrid began pushing the doors closed again, but the wind seemed to think otherwise.

Felix and Picard rushed towards him, and helped the half-giant. Picard flashed a grin at the man, but quickly turned his head to face the entryway again when the wind blew his headdress into his eyes. Sheba saw it happening from afar, and threw in a little Psynergy, no real technique, just to tone down the force a little.

Not too much later, the doors sealed shut with a loud 'Clack', and the silence returned… mostly.

Now, the hall was full of young people who were wiping the rain out of their faces, wringing out the hems of their robes, and of course, busy chattering and murmuring as if they were three times the crowd they were. Somewhere in that mess, Harry, Hermione and Ron were huddled together, Ron complaining about the weather, Hermione agreeing and adding her opinion on it, and Harry listening to the two of them.

In all that billowing moistness, Jenna and Sheba tried to reach the boys without getting too wet themselves. In their black robes, they didn't have to worry about blending in at all. Three times, Jenna tried to find an opening in the wall of people in front of her, but to no avail. In the end, she growled furiously, unheard against the deafening background noise, and plunged in, pulling a protesting Sheba along with her. Some Ravenclaws blocking her path complained loudly when the redhead pushed them away, and a group of Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors gave way quickly when they saw her making her way towards them.

"Hey, I've never seen THEM before…"

"Watch out! Wait, who are you, anyway?.."

Jenna ignored them all, and was quickly forgotten by most. Somehow, she manoeuvred herself right into Harry's group while trying to reach her brother and the Lemurian. A foolish comment from Ron's side, or, more exactly, a lot of stupid remarks from him, had already ticked off Hermione enough to have them glowering at each other, but when Jenna aggressively stomped the girl in the side to get her out of the way, the talented young mage wouldn't take it just like that.

"And WHAT did you think you were doing?" she grasped Jenna's sleeve and pulled her in, shouting at the Adept over the clamours.

"Well excuse me!" Jenna shouted back defiantly "I want to go there " she pointed in the general direction of the doors, furrowing her brows angrily "and you're in my way." Sheba had the urge to slap her own forehead in embarrassment, but when she recognised Hermione and her friends, she gasped.

Meanwhile, Hagrid had left Felix and Picard to join the teachers, shaking the droplets out of his beard as he went, and the two warriors were trying to find their girls. Much to Felix' discomfort, Picard had sighted them in the middle of the crowd, and now they were inching forward through the masses, trying not to offend anyone. At least they could keep a clear view of the 'battleground', as they were tall enough to peek over the heads of the students. Jenna's ruby hair gave them the exact location to go to, and soon, they were reunited. Jenna and Hermione had already begun arguing over 'manners', and 'standing there like a cow', flanked by Ron, Harry and Sheba, when Felix and Picard emerged from the crowd.

"Hey, what's going on here?" Picard asked. When he saw Sheba standing there beet-red, he twisted himself past Harry and Ron to talk to her.

"It's them! Picard, it's them!" she squeaked. He turned around and recognised the three, as well. He shielded Sheba from them for a moment with his broad shoulders and bowed down to her level.

"Hey, relax… I have no idea why Jenna's picking a fight with them, but don't worry… We're just students, like them, remember?" Sheba calmed down now, and looked past her friend to see how Felix was talking to Jenna, who had turned her back towards Hermione.

Felix didn't even have to speak, when his sister saw the exasperated look in his warm brown eyes, she immediately silenced.

"Aww… Hey, uh, Hermione… I'm sorry, okay?" she grumbled, but she was honest none the less. Hermione cast her a weird look.

"Never thought I'd have to say this, but.. How do you know my name? Who are you, you look familiar, somehow." she said. Felix looked back at her, and answered truthfully.

"We were introduced to you by Hagrid, in Diagon Alley, some time ago. You've seen us there, but unfortunately, we didn't get the time to converse much with you then." His gaze took Hermione by surprise.

"Oh, I remember you lot!" Ron perked up. "You looked as if you had just had a dozen butterbeers each back then…" his voice trailed off when Hermione cast him another dark look.

"Oh, Ron! Well, apologies accepted, if you accept mine for the behaviour of this jerk over here." she rolled her eyes. Jenna didn't quite get it, but Felix, Picard and Sheba reddened a little at the thought of themselves wobbling around after Sheba's relay of information that day.

"Uh-huh…" Jenna said, clueless still.

"Well, nice to meet you again, then… Oh, I hope you're not going to be offended, but I kind of forgot your names. You seem to remember ours." Hermione rattled on, ignoring Ron and Harry's attempts to get a word in.

With a friendly conversation started, things flowed smoothly for a while. The Adepts introduced themselves again, and after a few questions back and forth, Harry's team, and a couple of bystanders were filled in about the 'new students'. A little later, the students began to migrate towards the dining halls. Felix managed to steer his allies away from the main stream, and when they got a silent moment after getting cut off from Harry and his gang, they all felt their tensions loosen a little.

Then, the next problem arose. Picard and Sheba simply followed Felix and Jenna to sit at the Gryffindor house table, completely forgetting the usual conduct. Only when people fell silent around them, and Ron rasped his throat loudly, the Adepts became aware of the fact that the two blue Ravenclaws weren't supposed to sit with them.

"Oh COME on…" Jenna sighed. To everyone's surprise, she addressed the whole little crowd that had gathered directly. "We're friends, why can't we be together, then? They're not going to do anything wrong."

A wave of objections and ohs and ahs ran through the ranks at this statement so unreal. People began saying how it was the 'rule's, the 'proper way', and how 'others couldn't be trusted', and more of that, until Dumbledore's voice boomed over their heads and made them all turn.

"Well, my children, I wanted to start my speech, but since the subject seems to have come up already, why not make it a point today? But now, sit down please." Most of the students sat down, a few remaining standing around Picard, who had halfway gotten up, and was protecting Sheba from any harm he subconsciously feared.

"You will let them sit wherever they want. But not only them. Those who wish to mingle, are from now on allowed to do so. I was about to say that trust, and friendship will be of utmost importance of the times to come." As Dumbledore went on with his planned speech, the confused murmur died down, and everyone sat down, finally. Stares flashed the Adepts' way every now and then, but soon, another distraction saved Felix from the awkwardness.

The sorting began, and, even if now the rules had changed, the newly chosen house members each trotted, hurried or stalked proudly towards their own house's table. Luckily enough, the only way to recognise Picard and Sheba as Ravenclaws were the blue markings on their black robes, so they didn't stick out as much, although Picard's short hems and headdress didn't help much.

By the time the dinner popped up all over the hall, and the teachers and students were drawn into various conversations, the atmosphere was back to normal. Somehow, people thought, every year something weird happens. Some even added that it was nice that it wasn't Harry's 'fault', for a change.

For the rest of the afternoon, Felix, Sheba, Jenna and Picard sat together in silence. People avoided talking to them for some reason, or they were just waiting for a better moment. Nobody wanted to spoil their reunion with their friends by having awkward conversations with strange new people, after all, and the rumours were flying about like crazy. Harry's party had managed to place themselves two tables further away, so they didn't have to worry about that.

They ate quietly, and watched around, memorised faces, and listened. Nature seemed far away now.

Tonight, they'd sleep in a castle filled with people… magicians, wizards.