Disclaimer: All characters, events, objects, concepts, creatures and places that have appeared in J.K. Rowling's work and have been said and discussed in her interviews and biographies are NOT mine, that is, I am using them only to paint an alternate picture (a fanfiction) of what I think should be, but wasn't (due to canon). They belong to the lady herself, and Warner Bros. and her publishers. Everything else that is not disclaimed after this disclaimer is mine own machinations. (So I might disclaim other things in the future)
Chapter 1: Ombra Castle
Calvin pulled down his hood as he boarded the steel, ornately decorated carriage, pulled by two young Thestrals. Their eyes blinked at him as he disappeared, the docile creatures aware that the boy could see them.
He sat farthest from the other occupants, his face planting a firm, stoic mask as he surveyed them discreetly.
Brown, bottle eyes stared back at him with uncertain warmth. The person these eyes belonged to was fidgeting in his seat, excited, no doubt, about going to Ombra school. Calvin's expression cooled a few degrees when the boy tried to smile at him. The boy's smile faltered, and he looked towards someone else.
The girl next to him wore a distantly bored expression, her mouth a tiny curl away from being a pout. She wore fine, embroidered robes, which suited her angelic face and golden hair. She stared outside and did not bother with anyone. Calvin thought this girl came from a wealthy family, if not a well-off, pureblooded one. He found himself thinking of ways to use this girl to his advantage.
Right across the blonde girl, sitting away from Calvin, was a girl with dark eyes, preoccupied with a book. Calvin studied her. He made out the words 'History of Light Alliances' embossed on the cover. She didn't seem to mind that her long, ebony hair fell on parts of the pages. Her skin was too pale to be considered healthy, yet she carried a soft glow around her that made her look more alive than the other two. Calvin forced himself not to start when it thrummed, as if the thin veil knew someone was thinking about it. Magic, he thought to himself, half-impressed, half-wary.
And the carriage's last occupant, a thin, wiry boy, with equally wiry, unkempt hair and wire glasses, sat with an anxious expression, staring at his hands. He was uninteresting, despite his small size, small enough that he seemed to be buried deeply in his robes. The boy refused to meet anyone's eyes with his own green ones. Calvin paid him no mind after that.
The carriage lurched, startling everyone riding it, and made forward at a steady pace.
Calvin watched as Splinter Portal disappeared, the forest crawling like closing curtains around them. Soon, they were surrounded by the wild trees and plants. Light filtered gloriously through canopies of leaves, lighting the carriage's path, and unfamiliar sounds filled the air, sounds that piqued Calvin's curiosity, along with everyone else's. The forest was dense, and Calvin could see the air was saturated with moisture and magic.
He had no idea how far the trees extended, if they even covered a vast area. He only knew how big this part of South England was, and did not know how far the mist that befuddled the Muggles covered the bogs and moors. He knew all of that wouldn't matter, though, because Ombra forest was an enchanted one, hidden in a mystical rift in space found on one of the more secluded tors in Dartmoor. They would be nowhere on the world, but rather in between the crevices of its existence. The magic surrounding OmbraValley was strong and old, and so far no one has learned of its secrets. One entrance to it was Splinter Portal, a sacred place connecting the real world to the rift, a shrine woven with vines and wood.
After a while, Calvin tensed, as if a thick net ensnared him, and he knew why; the carriage they were on drew past thick layers of wards and rune protection. The others reacted differently to the onslaught of magic. The petulant girl sneezed repeatedly, the boy next to him had glazed, dreamy eyes, and the black-haired girl scratched her elbow. Calvin felt the magic like a steady drumming to his temples, giving him a headache. Somehow, the boy between him and the girl didn't react to the magic, and Calvin surmised that he must not be powerful enough.
Calvin looked out once again. The light danced on many kinds of flowers and leaves, some looking glassy and brittle, and others rough and spiky. Woods of different textures, thicknesses and heights towered over the rough path, and critters flew and skittered around, looking for new places to hide in. The creatures of the bog came from all over the world, all coalescing and harmonizing like a world untouched by human intervention. OmbraValley was the world condensed, making Ombra School of Magickery a premier place for magical education.
Calvin couldn't believe it himself. Ombra was a thing of myth told only in ancient history books. The school chose to share its location only with individuals whom it thought would affect the world, to walkers of unbridled destiny. It is said to be established by Merlin himself, who tore into time and space to stop himself from perishing. Unable to return to the real world, he sacrificed his magic to create the landscape and the castle, in the hopes that it would mold wizards which would one day direct the course of magical history.
Calvin knew the Castle would be a living, breathing thing, conscious and aware like a human, and he wondered briefly how the castle selected its professors and stewards. He didn't have time to imagine, because soon enough the Castle's tip loomed ahead, getting closer as the thestrals pulled them.
It looked very old, Calvin thought in interest, like a relic borne of medieval times, much older than what HogwartsCastle looked. However, it sang with magic so deep and impalpable that it reached out to them, like how a mother would reach to its children after long separation. Calvin let it wash over him like a waterfall, and he drew out a breath he didn't know he was holding. The Castle was roughly crescent-shaped, its highest point being a large turret, followed by smaller towers connected by stone and arch. It then curved down to a huge dome like structure, flanked by four other towers, and this building connected to a large block of segmented towers, more identical to the medieval castles in England. It swooped down into a spacious courtyard, where an unusual stone statue—one which looked like an enormous dragon's wing emerging from the ground—marked its end, and the crescent shape's lower tip. There must be more parts of the castle at the rear end of the clearing, he thought.
Trees and underbrush were integrated everywhere, and Calvin heard the stirring of many other people in the castle. They arrived at a wrought iron gate, similar to Hogwarts, but entirely unprotected by magic. The strong wards are all they need, Calvin surmised. They opened without so much as a creak, and the ride carried on.
He carefully gauged each occupant's reactions. The boy with dark chocolate hair peered out of the carriage in excitement, and the girl beside him, too, looked out in interest, yet schooled an unimpressed look. The other girl didn't bat an eyelash at the scenery, her face glued to the book on Light wizards, and the boy next to him—
He started slightly when he found the boy staring openly at him.
The boy's shockingly green, innocent eyes widened and darted back to his hands as Calvin glared, and for a moment, Calvin felt some remorse in impressing himself on the boy like that, but then brushed the feeling aside. He had told himself before that coming here—and going to a wizarding school, for the matter—would involve interacting with other wizards and witches his age. He would have to learn how to deal with them as civilly as possible, and get used to the slowly forming reality that they would be equals in this school. He would not, however, permit himself to feel the slightest regret for things such as that. It was rude to stare, and the boy had it coming.
The carriage ride ended, and the door opened by itself. Calvin did not miss a beat and stepped out elegantly, pulling his robes towards him so they wouldn't snare on anything. He didn't look at the others as he walked the cobblestone path to the castle's entrance, where at the top of the steps stood a lean, long-limbed man wearing dark purple robes, and a willowy, beautiful woman wearing subdued reds.
Calvin stopped at the bottom of the steps and gazed at them. A few shuffles of feet and robes told him that the others stopped, too.
"My students," the man said, opening his arms in welcome, "the five of you are the last to arrive from Splinter Portal. I bid you all welcome to Ombra School of Magickery. I will be your personal adviser, Phillippus Aureolus Theophrastus von Hohenheim, or as my lengthy name implies, Doctor Paracelsus."
Calvin's eyes widened a fraction, and he noticed the raven-haired girl do the same. This must be the Paracelsus many history books talk about. To see a great, thought-to-be dead wizard in front of them was surprising.
Or unsurprising, Calvin thought, if one knew Paracelsus.
Paracelsus was an Alchemist, renowned for breakthroughs in the Potions academe. He was not so shocked to find that the man must have discovered immortality to some degree. Wizards and scholars used his works to establish the foundations of Botany in the Muggle World and Herbology in the Wizarding one.
"Children, I bid thee welcome," said the woman, in an airy voice that made Calvin think of meadows and butterflies. "My name is Laverne de Montmorency, and I am the current Headmistress of Ombra."
She was unearthly, Calvin thought. She must have some magical creature in her blood, perhaps a Veela or some version of a Siren. Whatever it was, her voice had the slightest hint of compulsion, which drew their minds and soothed their anxiety. Calvin immediately didn't like how the woman easily threaded into his thoughts.
"You will enter Hippocrates' Square to undergo the Trial, where you would be, or would not be, bestowed the right to being Ombra's student," she said in a tone that assuaged the underlying implication of her words. There's a chance that I will not be worthy.
Calvin clenched his fists. Whatever powers that suggest he was not worthy of being a student here must be backwater ignorant, or entirely unfamiliar with Bal-Sagoth.
"As had been done with each student before you, your wands would be used in the Trials."
The blonde girl had raised her hand in the middle of that sentence, and she spoke without being acknowledged. "Will we need them for battle, Madam Montmorency?"
Calvin was prepared if the Trial ever came to it. He knew some spells that could hurt other individuals and distract them, though his wand work needed practice. The little raven-haired boy fashioned an expression of mixed confusion and shock, and a tiny hint of fear.
"No. I assure you all that no spell would be fired during the Trial," she said. "Your wands will indicate the verdict of your Trial. Should you be deemed unworthy, your wand would snap, and the core inside would pull you out of OmbraValley."
Calvin nodded. He would pass this. His mother had all but forced him to go to Hogwarts to be educated in magic, considering the dangers of Ombra, and the extensive curriculum, but an offer like this was too rare to pass up. He had always been opportunistic that way—much like his father—at the cost of taking risks he didn't know the stakes of.
Ombra was indeed a secret school. Nobody knew of its existence, except its graduates, and they have been bound upon leaving. Communication, and entrance and exit from the valley had to be authorized—at least, that's what Calvin knew from the Pensieve the school sent.
"If you would please follow me," Doctor Paracelsus said, "I will take you to the Square. Your luggage will be transported to your rooms if you pass the Trial." Calvin noted the particular stress on the 'if' in that sentence, which only strengthened his hypothesis that some would-be students do fail the Trial, and are kicked out of the valley.
At least this school starts a week early from the others. We can still send a confirmation owl to Hogwarts, or even Durmstrang, in the unlikely event that I don't make it through this.
Through the entrance, Calvin and the others were taken through a large corridor illuminated only by ceiling-to-floor stained glass windows. The angle of the sun, around an hour before high noon, made the hall look marvelously contrasting in light and shade. Stick to the wall and the arches, and one could hide unnoticed.
Through a few more hallways, and Calvin quickly found that most of Ombra's halls were decked with windows of different mosaic glasses, depicting scenes that sparked the would-be students' interests. One such window showed an image of a woman burning in a red and orange pyre, and a wizard casting water towards it with his wand. Another showed a glorious star shining bright on a dark blue desert, with three men on horse backs gazing towards it.
The halls, too, sang with magic and power, and Calvin itched to trace his hands on one of the walls' intricate carvings. He didn't stray from their group despite it, and they reached a large circular exit through the last hallway.
It opened into a meadow-like courtyard, buttercups lining the ancient stones and pillars littering the space. The wind blew through the well-kept grass, and Calvin's eyes followed the trail that lead to a wide circular platform. Around it, the students sat in clusters, with a few lower years sitting alone here and there. They walked, Doctor Paracelsus and Headmistress Montmorency
Calvin guessed that the older wizards standing near some of the students must be professors, or caretakers of the castle. Some of them looked very old and wise, while the others couldn't have been older than twenty. Calvin wondered whether all of the older wizards were once students of Ombra. He also eyed the glassy things moving on every person, making tinkering sounds. When they neared one group of students, he saw that they looked like tiny people. Glass men, he thought in wonder.
Everyone was gazing at them. Calvin felt a strange urge to scratch himself, but didn't entertain the thought. He faced the other students coolly, gazing intently at every possible set of eyes he could catch. He checked the others once again to see how they were reacting. The two boys looked quite nervous, especially the raven-haired, timid one, the blonde girl was doing the same thing, meeting students' gazes, and the pale girl wore a calm expression, her eyes straight ahead.
They reached the platform, and the Doctor and the Headmistress stood on it.
Headmistress Montmorency smiled. "Students! We now welcome the last of the candidates from Splinter Portal. All five of them will face the Trial of the Dome."
She drew out her wand, made out of dark blue wood that Calvin didn't recognize, and waved it in the air.
At least, that's what Calvin thought at first. But then it hit some kind of barrier, and waves upon waves came from where the wand's tip hit, and the small shockwaves expanded, and everyone saw the outline of the dome. It matched perfectly with the circular platform, and colors danced against the translucent barrier. Calvin breathed in astonishment. Merlin's beard, he heard the taller boy whisper.
"You shall enter by order of last name," Headmistress Montmorency said. She took out a small roll of parchment, and peered at it. "Calvin Bal-Sagoth."
Whispers broke out in the crowd. Calvin looked at everyone, yet ignored everyone muttering his name. All of them, except the raven-haired boy, stared at him knowingly.
"Step into the circle, and hold out your wand," the Headmistress said, coaxingly, misinterpreting Calvin's actions as hesitation.
Calvin trudged into the circle, and pointed his wand forward.
Around fifteen minutes later, he emerged from the dome, spat out from the other side. He had a few tears in his eyes and cheeks. Inside the dome, he had seen memories that he had rather not relive. But he conquered it, broke the cycle of illusions, and had come face to face with the deities. They showed him memories of his flaws and misgivings, and urged him to make a vow to rehabilitate himself from them while in the school. He had agreed to the conditions, for he thought he did need to fix them, temper them or purge himself of them completely.
His wand had disappeared in the dome, and had turned into a fiery ring as he spoke to the deities. They told him that in the fulfillment of the vow, he would be able to use his wand in this form, a better medium for channeling his affinity towards battle. It would suit his destiny, they said, and Calvin, dazed, had complied.
He had his wand in his hand again, and he stood, facing the large stone version of a dragon's wing they saw as they came, jutting upwards from the ground. It was taller than the smallest of towers in Ombra.
A hand came down on his shoulder, and he flinched a bit, before relaxing as he saw that it was Doctor Paracelsus. The man smiled at him.
"Well done, child. You passed. Sit on the grass and wait for your companions."
Calvin did as he was told, and sat on the grass. He could still see at the back of his eyes the visions he was shown in the dome, of his father murdering his uncle, who was supposed to succeed to power and inheritance, and Calvin, at eight years old, cowering silently behind a drawer, not making a sound in the hopes that his father wouldn't notice and kill him as well.
More of those visions flooded his memories, but he chose to ignore them, setting them aside in small compartments in his mind. Calvin found himself thinking more of the Trial in general than his own experience in it, just as Sienna Cinderwell was called into the dome.
He was wondering if anyone saw him while inside the dome, and realized that, though the dome was translucent, anyone who entered it was turned invisible. The Cinderwell girl, the blonde, bored-looking one, disappeared when she jumped onto the platform. He breathed a sigh of relief. He was glad no one had seen him in such a vulnerable state.
This time, it took around twenty minutes before Cinderwell reemerged from Calvin's side of the dome. She was bawling, and Doctor Paracelsus had to calm her down, bringing her to Calvin's patch of grass to sit. He stared coldly.
"It will be all right, young Sienna. You did marvelously. You passed the test," Doctor Paracelsus said comfortingly, and Sienna nodded, wiping the rest of the tears from her eyes. Calvin thought idly what she experienced in there that caused her to break into tears. Losing her favorite pet maybe, or something equally shallow. He also wondered what her wand could turn into if she has completed her vow.
"Antonio Exupery," the Headmistress called, and the brown-haired young boy jumped eagerly onto the platform, where he disappeared in the light of the shimmering dome.
He surveyed his surroundings. Hippocrates' Square was oddly shaped. It was a four-sided courtyard, with three of its sides flanked by forests which extended to the valley. He had a stroke of realization a moment later, that the castle perimeters weren't completely walled. It might have been so that there was open access to the forest.
He turned back and looked at the students. He thought of how the glass men and women were made. Maybe they give them to students after the Trial. After all, everyone, except a few who looked to be first years, had them on their shoulders, head, laps or pockets.
Cinderwell leaned her head on her knees and huddled to herself. Calvin didn't pay her any mind. She must still be rattled by the visions the deities gave.
The dome flared. Calvin estimated it to be around ten minutes, when Exupery came out of the dome, pale-faced and shivering. Doctor Paracelsus was on him at once, murmuring comforting words. He saw the Alchemist's hands glow as they settled on Exupery's arm and shoulder. Diagnostic spells. He used them on me and the girl as well, to see if I'm all right.
Antonio took a labored breath of relief as he sat behind Calvin and Cinderwell. He seemed to have a look of grim determination more than fear and anxiety. He took one look at Cinderwell, and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"You'll be all right. We did well," he said reassuringly, and Cinderwell gave him a shy smile.
Calvin stared indifferently back at the dome as Marie Valendia was called. He could see, through the shimmering barrier that separated them and the audience, the raven-haired boy give a start. Calvin's eyes trained on him. He looked like he wanted to speak, but couldn't say the words lest they turn to vomit. He saw the growing anxiousness on the boy's face.
He thought, not for the first time, if the boy would even pass the Trial.
His eyes widened slightly when not even five minutes later, Valendia stepped out of the dome. She had a faint smile on her face. Doctor Paracelsus seemed as surprised as the rest of them, but chose not comment. He guided her to them, and she sat down next to Exupery.
"How did you get out so fast?" he asked her, Cinderwell focused on the two of them. Valendia shrugged, and said, "I knew they were illusions the second the visions started."
She said nothing else, her face trained on the dome. Calvin followed her gaze, and saw the raven-haired boy talking with the Headmistress. From the other side, Calvin could make out how quick and confused the boy talked, and he didn't know what was happening. His name had been called—Harry Wyllt-Potter—and he was curious as to what was causing the delay.
"But Madam," said Harry, his voice small yet sure, "my name isn't Harry Wyllt-Potter. It's only Harry Potter."
He had been sure of that, from the moment he had been transported from the Dursley house at the strike of midnight, July 30th, to a bedroom he didn't know, where a ghost had confronted him and told him that he was a wizard. James Potter, his dad, was also a wizard, whom he was named after. Harry James Potter. The ghost, his grandfather Isaac, would have told him if he had Wyllt in his name. His mother was Lily Evans, and he was sure that she wasn't a Wyllt either.
That was why he wondered why the girl, Marie Valendia, went before him, when clearly P's came before V's. He thought that his name was not on the list, which was even more mortifying, but that wasn't the case, to his immense relief. They only got his name wrong.
"But that's not possible, child. This parchment has centuries-old enchantments on it. It has never made a mistake since its creation. Now, go on. You are the only other student standing in front of me, and the only other student on this list." Headmistress Montmorency said patiently.
Harry sighed to himself. He was sure that he was not a Wyllt. How else could he have been wrong, then? Did his grandfather hold that piece of information against him?
He figured he could answer those questions later, when he contacted his grandfather's ghost in Potter Manor. For now, he saw no other choice but to enter the dome, and hope that he isn't thrown out of the valley, or worse, killed by the magic for deigning to impersonate someone he wasn't.
He stepped onto the platform and the dome consumed him.
Calvin was astounded. He wondered if he was right, if the boy did fail the Trial. The crowd had already gone impatient with waiting, and the air was filled with whispers of what might have happened. Valendia and Exupery were discussing what they assumed occurred with Potter inside the dome. Cinderwell's eyes were glassy in anticipation. Headmistress Montmorency was staring at the dome knowingly.
"Sir, what happened? It's been at least forty minutes already," Calvin asked Doctor Paracelsus, who was standing beside them. He was staring at the dome as well, waiting.
"I do not know, Mr Balsagoth. No one has ever stayed in there for more than half an hour." His expression showed his confusion with the situation, but also the fascination of having something uncanny happen.
"Did he fail the Trial?" Cinderwell said, looking up at the Alchemist.
"No, I reckon he hasn't. The dome turns dark if the student had failed, and the student is ejected with a spectacular burst of light, towards the portal he or she entered," he said, dazedly.
The dome was burning a bright golden hue, like a dimmer, miniature sun. Calvin thought, forgetting his tact, even if it was inside his own head, that Potter must have broken the dome somewhat.
And then, a huge rupture burst from the side of the dome, with rays of light shooting from the cracks, and with a flash of light, Potter stepped out of the dome. The glassy structure dimmed at once, and the colors turned into ripples, resonating back to the earth, making the barrier disappear into the platform.
Doctor Paracelsus was on him at once, his diagnostic spells more obvious as he scanned Potter's whole body and asked about the boy's current mental and emotional state. Potter seemed to be fine, shell-shocked but breathing normally, and he stared at the Alchemist for a second, as if he wanted to say something. But he shook his head, looked down, and let himself be guided towards them. Calvin wanted to glare at the boy. He didn't know the motivation behind it, but he wanted to make the boy feel the same way again, when they were in the carriage and Potter was staring at him.
"The Trial of the last journeymen from Splinter Portal is over," the Headmistress declared. "We shall move to the Dining Hall for lunch and commence with the Welcoming of the Seeds. After that, your advisers will take you to your common rooms, where you will settle."
With a flurry of robes, Headmistress Montmorency strode back to the castle, the students and their advisers hot on her heels. Doctor Paracelsus smiled at them, and led them to the trail back to the castle. All the while, Calvin saw most of the students glancing at Potter, hushed words exchanged regarding the mysterious amount of time it took for his Trial to finish, and what ticked Calvin off was that Potter was oblivious to all of it.
Calvin didn't quite comprehend how such an ordinary little boy could cause such a commotion. He found Potter inexcusable, and unlearned, and quite withdrawn, traits which, as far as Calvin knew, weren't defining traits of an Ombran. He settled for light brooding, and thinking about how much he would learn in Ombra's walls, instead of the boy who kept pace near him, so normal yet so contradictory.
They reached the Dining Hall. For one, it had several long tables and chairs, with statues and different kinds of art and sculptures lining the walls. It was different from the image Calvin had seen of Hogwarts, where torches and banners alternated behind the farthest long tables. What defined it from Hogwarts was that it had a domed ceiling, and light filtered through it like frosted glass. It gave the Hall an ethereal feel, the tables basking in pure blankets of light. Up front, a long table was set vertically, where all the staff sat after leading their advisees to their seats. Doctor Paracelsus led them to the farthest table to the left, sat them, and winked, before going to the staff table.
Calvin was seated next to Valendia. Across them sat Potter, sandwiched in between Cinderwell and Exupery.
"Harry, is it?" Exupery inquired. "Hello. I'm Antonio."
Potter's cheeks colored. "Hullo … It's nice to meet you, Antonio." The tanned boy smiled, and shook hands with Potter.
"I'm Sienna," the girl said haughtily. "And you may call me that, if you promise not to steal any of my things or humiliate me."
Exupery gave her a wave. Potter looked aghast for a second, before nodding jerkily. Valendia was reading her book again, and Calvin wondered where she hid such a large tome. He made to ask, but that would require some form of interaction, which Calvin was not ready for, and Valendia wasn't inclined to let happen. It wasn't that he was shy—he just didn't find the need to intermingle with anyone he didn't have a clear picture of. He would observe them first, before anything.
"Students, if I may have your attention," the Headmistress said, standing behind a pedestal.
She gave her welcoming speech. Calvin was only half-listening, despite her loud voice through a Sonorus charm. Instead he scanned the Hall. The walls surged with magical power, as did the students. He found power upon power looping around each other, silently acknowledging each others' presence, testing the foreign waves each magical core exuded. He found his own reaching out, interested, curiosity piqued, and he sought to fold them back into his control.
He caught the words, 'forbidden to walk into the forests unprotected' and 'materials provided by the school for every class' but didn't pay attention to much else. It was just filled with guidelines that only a moron would be ignorant to forget.
"You should be listening to the speech," Valendia said without looking up from her book, and Calvin's eyes narrowed at her.
"I could say the same to you," he shot back.
The pale girl gave her a smile. "I caught every word she said. Besides, I know more about this school than any of the other first years."
"Really? And how is that?" Calvin asked, lacing his tone with disinterest. It was a different matter with the others deciding to intermingle with him, as opposed to him making the first move. He never made the first move, except to strike with words or magic.
"My sister is a professor," Valendia said, and returned to her book as if nothing had transpired between them.
"Fascinating," Calvin said with no hint of such fascination. He didn't know what she was doing, talking to him, when he gave off every indication that he didn't want anyone's conversation. He mustn't have been cold enough.
"And now, we welcome the seeds of the Midlight flower, one that blooms in the middle of August, and releases its magical spores when the sun is high. May we have a prosperous, productive school year!"
As if on cue, flowers burst into life from the windows, and Calvin eyebrows rose when they did. He didn't notice them before, the small vines that lined the windowsills, and cursed at himself for not paying so much attention to his surroundings.
The flowers danced in the light of the domed ceiling, waving gently to the flowing winds, and they sparked to life as mini explosions of light, releasing into the air wispy, glowing spores, like stars and dandelions bred together.
Calvin panicked, not knowing what to do as the spores closed in on them. For all he knew, the spores were poisonous, or acidic, or ate through human flesh. One uneasy glance at Valendia changed that train of thought.
She was smiling at him, her eyes telling him what she didn't choose to voice. I told you to listen.
The spores floated around her and she laughed as one tickled her nose, and another entered it. She must have been mad for inhaling it. It could have rooted firmly onto her throat, and burst to life, flaying her neck.
But it didn't, and Calvin let paranoia wash away from him as he glanced at the other students. They were gathering spores, letting them rub onto their skin and cling to their hair. The others batted at them annoyingly, and some even held their tongues out. Potter went cross-eyed as one settled on his nose, and Cinderwell gathered as much as she could from the table. Exupery shook his head, sending tens of hundreds of them flying from his brown hair.
"Let the Midlight flower bless you with the promise of the completion of your vows, and the attainment of all the knowledge Ombra has to offer," the headmistress said. "And now, the feast!"
Food appeared on plates a moment later, and Calvin found a complete dining set in front of him. He saw the others start piling up food for lunch, and made to do the same. He took something that seemed to be pork glowing in a very enticing sauce, and few scoops of mashed something.
As he forked some food into his mouth, he found Potter eating at the same pace as he was, which was to say, slower and more proper than normal. He also saw, with a hint of approval, Potter using the correct table setting for each food. He might not be so hopeless, he thought.
They ate in moderate silence. At least he did, not meeting the eyes of anyone. Exupery had found it necessary to talk to Valendia, and formally introduce himself. Valendia was amicable, and introduced herself to Cinderwell and Potter as well. Calvin didn't give a flying Hippogriff. He stared resolutely at his plate, and continued eating without conversing with anyone with between.
He found himself listening to Valendia as she recounted some tales around Ombra, the portals that opened here and there, the ghosts that possessed inanimate objects, the Dawn and the Dusk Library. He would have liked to discover things around the castle by himself thanks, but he knew that any information regarding the place was useful.
"So, is it true that Merlin himself made this place?" Exupery asked. Now that he found himself listening, he could tell that Antonio had a slight, waning accent. It was definitely south-western.
"That's arguable," Cinderwell said after swallowing some fish. "Relics in the castle date back to older than Merlin's time."
"Well, yes, but he could have easily acquired them through his magic. He was the most powerful wizard in history, after all," Exupery retorted.
"Not quite." Valendia finished eating, and wiped her mouth with a table napkin. "He had opposition in the form of Lady Morgana, the first Dark Lady."
Morgan le Fey. Calvin knew the fey tales. It was said that she was only half-human, the rest of her an unearthly powerful magical being.
"What do you think, Harry?" Antonio asked.
Harry was still caught up with the visions he experienced. Recalling them made his eyes prickle, and his mind protest, so he settled for evaluating them at the surface. Why did the deities show him illusions that alluded to no personal history? He would have thought that they would show him something horrifying, like the way he had been treated in the past, but instead the deities showed him the horrors of the future where he had strayed from his destiny.
It was truly horrendous. The sky was dark, yet the sun glowed high, a large, glowing ball trying to illuminate the horizon, but failing. The land was barren, and he could see remnants of buildings and burning trees. This had once been the Muggle city of London, burned and reduced to ashes. People were still alive, barely. Most of those still alive begged for death, or suffered so much damage that they couldn't even plead for release.
In the distance stood a being with red eyes, cloaked in darkness, rimmed with silver, magical power. He wielded a white wand, a direct contrast to the dark that surrounded him, and he waved it, more like slashed it into the air and rendered space.
The sky turned darker, and from the other direction, Harry saw a fragment of the moon crash towards the ground. A mountain was reduced to rubble, and the resulting explosion was a mixture of storms and molten rock.
His heart filled with an aching sense of righteousness. He needed to stop that creature from causing destruction.
He asked them how he was to do this, when he was nothing special. The deities said nothing more than the conditions of his vow. Should he realize the way to his destiny, he would receive his medium. Should he stray from his destiny, the magic inside him will implode, and return to the Earth, and he will be left a lifeless shell.
He accepted it, with the same amount of belief he had when he accepted his grandfather's story and his wizarding roots.
After exiting the dome, he remembered nothing of the visions he had, but only of the vow he took, and the uncertain way he could achieve it.
While Antonio and the others were eating, he tried to recall the memories, but couldn't. He felt a block that wasn't supposed to be there. It was uncanny how he knew he had memories being blocked, but didn't know the memories themselves. It made him think that he must break the block someday, to find his answers.
He blushed when Antonio addressed him. He knew nothing of Ombra castle, and only a month's knowledge of wizarding history. He tried to take in as much information he could from the Manor's libraries, and from his grandfather's lessons, but he could only absorb so much as pureblood niceties and basics in magic and creatures.
He voiced his opinions honestly.
"I really don't know. Each of your arguments can be helped with the right amount of information."
That response seemed to satisfy them, and he breathed a sigh of relief when they weren't looking. He was going to have to read a lot into history and culture and magic, if he was going to study in such a place where the knowledge was common.
Calvin found Potter's response very diplomatic, though he once again chose not to join the conversation. Soon, everyone was finished with their meals, and the Hall buzzed with chatter. Calvin would have liked to spend the rest of the day exploring the castle, or the libraries Valendia mentioned, but the Headmistress dismissed that thought with her final speech.
"Your advisers will now take you to your common rooms, where they would assign duties to each student in each cluster. The Trial has bound you all to your companions through the Portal, and hence would be living in close quarters to them. Class schedules will also be given later, and you would be free to choose them, with or without accord to your journeymen's schedules. Each student would be advised on which classes to take, based on their magical core's affinity." The Headmistress smiled once again, a slow, proud smile. "Now, off you go!"
Sounds of movement from the students, and they were standing, chatter dominating once again, and Calvin was surprised to see Doctor Paracelsus next to them already.
"Shall I show you to your rooms?" he said, grinning in what Calvin could only think of as enthusiasm.
Calvin would have to get used to the magic, tumbling down like river rapids through some of the halls. It was an entirely unpredictable place, Ombra, proven by the way some halls led to dead ends when they didn't before, or the way tapestries would fall on students and threaten to eat them. Everything seemed to be alive with magic—the statues, the potted plants, even the purple flamed torches in the inner halls. Calvin was careful not to drink any of it in, or let his magical core mix with the latent magic. It could prove disastrous if his magic hooked onto an interesting branch of magic, and hung on for days without letting him go.
He wondered in irritation if any of the others felt the way he did, all tense and balled up like a ball of stretched rubber bands. Valendia was reading her book once again—Calvin was mildly impressed at how she dodged unwitting obstacles as she walked, while managing to find the words to answer Cinderwell's pestering questions about the book. The blonde had given up after a while, huffing in annoyance. She must have been trying to drive Valendia mad with the insistent questions.
Exupery was, to Calvin's utter lack of surprise, blithe and inattentive. Often he would turn the wrong corner while the rest of them went the other way, and he would realize his ignorance, blush a little, then catch up to them. His head was in the clouds, and Calvin thought he was definitely thinking hard about something.
And Potter. Calvin's eyes narrowed at him once again. He was following Doctor Paracelsus like a duckling, once again seeking to enjoy the little walk by himself. For some reason Calvin was once again infuriated with him.
Before long, they reached a small alcove, with runes lining the arch in intricate detail. He noticed how it was just a stone wall under the arch, and there was no door for them to enter. This had to be their rooms. They wouldn't have stopped otherwise. He squinted his eyes a bit to examine them, but the doctor had already drawn his wand.
He held his wand up, pointing towards the uppermost rune. It glowed at being acknowledged. "I come to settle the journeymen of Splinter, whose guardian Taurus has granted them passage. Speak now, Ombran roots, from which Midflower bloomed and blessed them. Grant them the powers of the Earth, and the guardian fitting them."
The rune radiated a golden brown hue, throbbing, and then touching the runes near it. They glowed, their light beating like hearts, and rune by rune the entire arch was illuminated. Light pierced through the dead stone inside, carving intricate designs onto the wall, and Calvin had to look away or risk temporary blindness. When the light ceased they all turned to look, and found an ornate wooden door. Carved on it was a grandfather clock.
"Horologium," Doctor Paracelsus breathed. "The Pendulum Clock."
They all stared at the golden lines, almost hesitant to look away, but the Alchemist broke their concentration when he opened the door and beckoned for them.
They stepped through the arch, and found themselves in a large room with a fireplace, sofas and cushions, tables, and walls lined with bookshelves, which, to Calvin's pleasure, was decked with different kinds of books.
"Go on then, find somewhere to sit, and I'll discuss with you this room," Doctor Paracelsus said, grinning at their awed faces. Potter sat on the largest couch, and so did Valendia. Calvin took a lone sofa, Exupery sat on a fluffy cushion bag on the floor, and Cinderwell sat on a chair where she rested her head and elbow on a table.
"This would be your common room for the duration of your stay," said the Alchemist. "The loo's back there through that hallway—"he pointed towards a narrow space at the back,"—and those set of stairs will lead you to your rooms. Your belongings have already been transported into them. The boys will board together, and so will the girls."
Calvin frowned at that. He thought he might get some solace in this place with private rooms. With that idea gone, he glanced at Potter and Exupery. He blanched at the thought of who he would like to board with less. This one he had no preparation for. He knew Hogwarts was a boarding school, where students shared rooms and private spaces. Why wasn't his preparation for that the same as this one?
Because I didn't know who I was boarding with, then. Right now, I don't know which one's easier to get along with—that raven-haired runt or that happy-go-lucky one.
Doctor Paracelsus broke through his reverie. "That settles it, then. You may now make yourselves comfortable in your rooms. I will knock a few moments later to discuss with you which classes you would like to take."