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Xchange Students Chap 2; Mayhem at the Mall

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  • Tony
    Summary: The three young wizards settle into life at Xavier s. Kitty finds herself drawn to Harry, and the feeling is mutual. But when a visit to a shoping
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 7, 2005
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      Summary: The three young wizards settle into life at Xavier's. Kitty
      finds herself drawn to Harry, and the feeling is mutual. But when a
      visit to a shoping mall explodes into violence, Harry and his
      friends learn there is a darker side to mutant life!


      Disclaimer: I own none of the characters or settings in this story.
      no money is being made or infringement intended.

      Title: Xchange Students (Chapter 2)
      Author: Argonaut57
      Genre: Crossover Action/Adventure with some romance and comedy
      Rating: PG-13
      Pairings: Rogue/Iceman; Ron/Hermione; Harry Potter/Kitty Pryde;
      Colossus/Ginny Weasley.

      Xchange Students

      Chapter 2—Mayhem at the Mall

      The following Saturday, Harry, Hermione and Ron arrived at
      Xavier's
      with their luggage, transported by portkey into a large, sunny
      office. They had time to exchange brief greetings with their
      counterparts, a striking girl with a streak of pure white in her
      long, brown hair, a cheerful-looking young man the same size and
      build as Harry, and a towering, muscular youth even bigger than Ron.
      Then, the three Americans took their places around the portkey and
      vanished.

      "Come in, come in! Sit down, all three of you," a man
      welcomed
      them. "That must be quite a disconcerting way to travel," he
      mused. "Now then, you are Hermione, Harry, and Ron, yes? Good. I
      am
      Professor Charles Xavier, principal of this school."

      Professor Xavier was a slender, wheelchair-bound man of
      indeterminate age, somewhere between forty and sixty years old,
      Harry guessed. The professor was completely bald, with a strong,
      kindly face and penetrating, dark eyes.

      He spoke again. "Before I let you unpack, I thought I had better
      tell you how we've set things up. Harry and Ron will be sharing
      the
      room normally occupied by Bobby and Peter, the two boys who have
      gone to Hogwarts. Hermione, you will be sharing with Marie's
      roommate, Kitty Pryde. I think you two will get along well but, if
      not, we can arrange a change.

      "You may explore the mansion and grounds as you choose, providing
      you respect other students' personal space. Certain areas are off
      limits to students unless accompanied by faculty, but these are
      clearly marked and kept locked. I must also ask you to stay within
      the school grounds unless escorted. You will be expected to attend
      classes, but we'll discuss your courses on Monday. Professor
      Dumbledore has advised me that you have been given Hogwarts' work
      to
      do while you are here, as well.

      "Two members of my staff will show you to your rooms in a moment.
      First, I would like to introduce Ms. Ororo Monroe, also known
      as `Storm'."

      Storm was maybe twenty, the same height as Harry, about
      5'10", and
      quite the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. The severely cut
      business suit she wore completely failed to disguise her superb
      figure. Storm's face was almost perfect, with classic bone
      structure, flawless coffee-coloured skin, a generous mouth, and
      liquid, chocolate eyes. Her hair was shoulder length, thick, and
      silver-white like a Veela's. She took Harry's proffered hand
      in both
      of hers, squeezed it warmly, and spoke his name in a soft, slightly
      husky, contralto. She moved on to greet the others in the same
      fashion.

      "And, this is my deputy, Mr. Scott Summers, also called
      `Cyclops'."

      Cyclops stood a shade over six feet tall, with a slim but powerful
      build. Unlike Storm, he was casually dressed in jeans and a sweater.
      He had dark hair, a strong jaw and firm mouth. He seemed to have an
      air of sadness about him.

      Cyclops' most striking feature was a heavy visor with an eye slit
      made from some kind of reddish glass or crystal. The visor obscured
      his eyes and the upper part of his face. Cyclops greeted them with a
      hearty, brisk handshake.

      Professor Xavier continued, "Should you have any problems, I am
      usually to be found in this office during the school day unless I am
      teaching. My door is always open; feel free to come and speak to me
      about anything.

      "Finally, welcome to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.
      We hope
      to make your stay here an enjoyable learning experience. Now, off
      you go to get settled in."

      The three of them began to pick up their luggage. Scott pointed at
      the brooms Harry and Ron had insisted on bringing. "Planning to
      do
      some cleaning, guys?"

      "These aren't for sweeping," Harry said indignantly,
      picking up his
      Firebolt. "They're for flying!"

      Scott grinned. For a moment, the sadness left him and his natural
      enthusiasm emerged. "Now, that, I gotta see!"

      *****

      Kitty Pryde, an auburn-haired sixteen year old, was in the Quiet
      Lounge, absorbed in a battered paperback copy of The Fellowship of
      the Ring, when her friend, Dani, hissed to her, "Newbies at 11
      o'clock! Cute newbies, too!"

      Kitty looked up. Storm and Cyclops were escorting two boys and a
      girl along the corridor. Cyclops had stopped by the door and was
      saying, "This is the Quiet Lounge. Students come here to read,
      play
      board games, or just hang out. There's no TV or video gaming
      allowed
      in here, and we keep the music turned down."

      Kitty focused on the girl in the group. So this was her new roomie--
      a small brunette, fairly good looking, who could use a makeover.
      But, then, Kitty thought, nearly everyone could use a makeover other
      than Ororo. The redheaded guy was the brunette's boyfriend,
      judging
      from the body language between them. Kitty decided he wasn't too
      much bigger than a grizzly bear. The other guy… hmm. The other
      guy
      captured Kitty's complete attention. She studied his slender,
      dancer's body, even features, mop of unruly, black hair and,
      finally, the emerald-green eyes. That one was hot!

      Dani elbowed her, muttering, "Kitty, put your tongue back in your
      mouth before someone steps on it! These must be the guys from
      England Professor X told us about. Should we say hi?"

      "I'm on it, Dani. Gotta meet my new roommate, anyway.
      Later!"

      It didn't take Kitty long to persuade Storm to let her show
      Hermione
      to their room, which was spacious, airy and warm despite the wintry
      scene outside the window. Kitty showed Hermione where to store her
      things, then sat on the edge of her own bed and began a conversation
      that jumped around like a grasshopper on a hot plate.

      "That big redhead-- Ron--he's your boyfriend, right?"

      "Oh, yes!" Hermione still could not believe her luck.

      "Cool. He's a hunk," said Kitty, then switched tracks.
      "Rogue--
      Marie, that is-- said Professor X told her your school is like a
      real castle, with battlements, suits of armor, and everything."

      "That's right," Hermione agreed. "We even have
      ghosts."

      "Really? You ever see one?"

      Hermione was about to say "every day" when she realised that
      Kitty
      probably would not believe her or would end up thinking that she
      was, as Ron would say, "completely, bloody mental." So,
      Hermione
      just shrugged. Kitty had jumped ahead, anyway.

      "Your other friend--does he have a girlfriend back home?"

      "Harry? No, he hasn't."

      "You're kidding me, right? A cute guy like him?"

      Hermione experienced a mental hiccup. Harry--a `cute guy'?
      Hermione
      adored Harry: he was her best friend, but `cute'? She almost
      laughed
      aloud as she pictured the skinny, pinch-faced eleven year old who
      had first befriended her all those years ago. She must try to see
      him as other girls did.

      She shook her head at Kitty. "Harry's been through a lot. His
      life
      is a bit…complicated. To be honest, I think there are girls at
      home
      who fancy him, but he doesn't seem to notice them. Harry can be
      very
      dense, sometimes," Hermione revealed.

      Kitty filed that info away for future reference. With a carefully
      neutral expression on her face, she changed the subject once more,
      chattering about the school. Hermione wasn't fooled for an
      instant,
      but she let the other girl carry on.

      After Hermione finished unpacking, she and Kitty collected Ron and
      Harry from a room halfway down another corridor. They went back to
      the Quiet Lounge. Hermione noticed with amusement that Kitty managed
      to walk beside Harry along the way, and sat him down beside her on
      the couch. Kitty introduced the newcomers to her circle of friends,
      saying, "We're the only kids our age in the school right now,
      so
      you're going to be hanging with us. Professor X would kill us if
      we
      ignored you. Besides, it'll be more fun if we all get along."

      Kitty's closest friend after the absent Marie was a pretty,
      Native
      American girl named Danielle Moonstar. Dani's boyfriend was
      Roberto
      DaCosta, a fiery but good-humored Brazilian, whose roommate and best
      friend was Sam Guthrie, a gangly, soft-spoken sixteen year old from
      Kentucky. Sam was going out with Dani's roommate, Rahne
      Sinclaire, a
      shy Scots girl with hair as red as Ron's.

      The young mutants bombarded the three young wizards with questions
      about Hogwarts and England and magic. In return, they offered a good
      deal of information about Xavier's, America, and their lives as
      mutants.

      The Xavier's crowd was curious about the new arrivals'
      powers.
      Harry, Ron and Hermione demonstrated a few basic spells, just to
      show that they were, in Roberto's words, "on the level".
      Roberto
      responded with a show of the immense physical strength he could
      achieve by drawing on the energy of the sun, which explained his
      nickname, `Sunspot.' Rahne transformed into a red-furred
      wolf,
      revealing her Wolfsbane form, before Danielle, as Psyche, got them
      all laughing when she caught out both Sam and Ron with an illusion
      of a table groaning with food. Sam regretted that his talent, flying
      like a rocket, was too dangerous to display indoors—they
      didn't call
      him Cannonball for nothing! Kitty could dissolve like a spirit; she
      showed her Ariel skills by walking right through the wall.

      They marvelled and laughed. After dinner, the students watched TV
      together. But, as the evening went on, couples slipped out for some
      private time--Dani and Roberto first, then Sam and Rahne, finally
      Ron and Hermione. This left Kitty and Harry sitting together alone.

      They did more talking than TV watching as they studied each other.
      Kitty realized there was more to Harry than good looks. Harry was
      drawn to Kitty's intelligence and warmth, as well as her delicate
      features and slender figure. He felt something stirring inside him.

      When, an hour or so later, Dani stuck her head in the door to inform
      them that everyone else was turning in for the night, Kitty walked
      with Harry as far as the landing where the boys' and girls'
      corridors separated. There, she turned to him and said, "Good
      night, Harry. Welcome to Xavier's." On an impulse, she
      stepped
      closer and gave him a quick hug. To her delight, he returned the
      hug. They parted company, both with hearts beating a little faster.

      On Sunday morning after breakfast, the three friends followed the
      advice Kitty had given them to dress warmly. They passed through the
      empty recreation room, out the French doors, and onto a wide veranda
      that ran the length of the house on that side.

      The day was crisp and bright. The veranda overlooked a busy scene.
      To one side was a basketball court, where students were playing a
      game. Sam Guthrie had a group of younger children (they looked like
      Hogwarts First Years to Harry) tossing a frisbee back and forth in
      the middle area. Finally, there was a small, but well-equipped skate
      park, complete with ramps, rails, a half-pipe--and Roberto, whizzing
      around happily. Arranged along the veranda were benches and tables.

      No sooner had Hermione finished explaining frisbees and skateboards
      to Ron (she didn't even try to tackle basketball) than Kitty
      dashed
      over to invite Hermione to join her, Dani and Rahne in a game of
      pingpong. Ron wandered to the edge of the lawn just as a little girl
      missed a catch and the frisbee sailed in his direction. Ron caught
      the thing without thinking and was promptly drawn into that game.
      Harry took a deep breath of clean, cold air and was about to find a
      seat, when Roberto appeared at his elbow. "Hey, Harry, you ever
      try
      one of these?" he asked.

      Harry looked at the skateboard. Dudley had one once, but quickly
      broke it. Harry shook his head. "'fraid not."

      "Piece of cake. You've got the build for boarding.
      C'mon, I'll show
      you. You might spend more time on your butt than on the board at
      first, but don't sweat it. Let's get you a helmet,"
      Roberto said.

      The morning passed pleasantly for Harry. He learned quickly under
      Roberto's patient instruction. Boarding, like Quidditch, depended
      on
      balance. Harry took to it easily, though he felt strangely unsettled
      as the day wore on, just as he had the previous evening.

      After a while, he and Roberto left the skate park to rejoin the
      others on the lawn. The younger children had gone indoors, replaced
      by the girls, who'd decided to try their hands at frisbee. As
      Harry
      tossed and caught the plastic disc, laughed at Ron's clowning and
      at
      Dani's wisecracks, he found himself flirting happily with Kitty.
      But, again, he felt that odd sensation, like a shifting inside.

      His vague uneasiness crystallised into understanding. Harry suddenly
      became aware that, in this place, he was no longer Harry Potter, the
      Boy Who Lived, nemesis of Lord Voldemort, child of prophecy--and
      goodness knows what else. Here and now, he was just Harry, a student
      from England, someone to find out about and be friends with…maybe
      more than friends, he thought hopefully, catching Kitty watching
      him. He felt as if a weight that he hadn't realised he'd been
      carrying had fallen from his shoulders.

      By the time the lunch bell rang, everyone was more than ready for a
      meal. Harry naturally fell into step beside Kitty, and sat with her
      without really thinking about it. Hermione noticed, though, and when
      she caught Dani's eye, the Native American girl solemnly winked
      at
      her, so Hermione knew she wasn't the only one.

      The conversation topic for lunch was quickly decided. Roberto and
      Sam planted themselves down opposite Harry and Ron. Sam said,
      "Ok,
      guys. So, tell us all about this Quidditch thing!"

      Hermione rolled her eyes and groaned theatrically. Kitty leaned
      forward and spoke to her across Harry and Ron. "That bad,
      Hermione?"

      "You have no idea, Kitty! This could take the rest of the
      week!"

      *****

      The rest of the week was, in fact, taken up with classes of one sort
      or another. The three visitors quickly discovered their own
      favorites. Hermione enjoyed Storm's math class ("You've
      always been
      completely mental!" Ron teased) while Ron was intrigued by
      science,
      particularly because the subject was taught by the blue-furred and
      massively muscled Henry McCoy.

      Harry most enjoyed philosophy classes. The teacher, Mr. Wagner,
      looked like a demon from an old painting, with his blue skin, yellow
      eyes, pointed ears and long, whip-like tail, but he taught his
      subject with a blend of deep spirituality and wry humor that Harry
      found fascinating. They all enjoyed Professor Xavier's English
      literature lessons, and world history, which was taught by Mr.
      Cassidy. The Hogwarts trio had yet to learn why the easy-going Mr.
      Cassidy was called Banshee.

      One teacher they rarely saw was Logan. ("Not Mr. Logan," Sam
      warned
      them, "just Logan".) He took the young mutants for what they
      called `Danger Room sessions', the only lessons the three
      Hogwarts
      students were denied.

      Logan was short, no taller than Kitty, but wide-shouldered and
      heavily built. His hair was thick, coarse and dark; his face,
      weathered and craggy. He had spoken to the Hogwarts students only
      once, approaching them in the Rec Room on Monday evening.

      "Evenin'. The name's Logan—Wolverine, to some. Just
      so you know, I
      told the Professor that you should be in my Danger Room sessions
      with the others. I've seen the files Dumbledore sent over.
      You've
      done pretty well, but, with some training, you could've done
      better."

      Nettled, Harry responded, "Oh? So you think you could have dealt
      with a Basilisk, do you?"

      Logan shook his head. "No, bub, I don't think so, I KNOW
      so!"

      He raised one hand and clenched his fist. There was a metallic
      clicking sound, and three curved, razor-sharp blades sprang out from
      the back of his hand. Wolverine moved them around in the light for a
      moment, then retracted his claws.

      Harry grinned ruefully. "OK, I believe you! Next time I find a
      monster on the loose, I'll give you a call!"

      Wolverine looked at him for a long moment, then chuckled.
      "You'll
      do, kid." He addressed all three students. "I still think
      you
      should be in my classes."

      The week passed quickly, and Harry, Hermione and Ron found
      themselves part of a new circle of friends. They studied together,
      ate together, spent free time together and quickly became a tightly
      knit group.

      Harry was growing especially fond of Kitty. In the evenings, when
      the other couples had drifted off, he would sit with her in the
      Quiet Lounge, talking. The conversations became more intimate, as
      they shared their dreams, hopes and fears, and spoke of their
      childhoods. Something was growing between them, but they felt
      relaxed and comfortable together; neither was willing to rush things.

      The next Saturday marked the first time the three visitors had left
      the mansion or grounds. That morning, Scott drove all of them into
      the local town in what he called an MPV – Hermione called it
      a `people mover' – and dropped them off at the shopping
      mall. This
      was apparently a regular outing for older students at Xavier's,
      rather like the Hogsmeade weekends Harry and his friends enjoyed so
      much.

      No sooner had Scott left, than the girls whisked Hermione away to
      some sanctum of feminine mysteries. The boys hit the video arcade,
      except for Ron, who disappeared into a jewelry store, returning
      after an hour, looking pleased with himself.

      Dani came into the arcade later and hauled the boys out. Harry
      almost didn't recognise Hermione. Remarkable things had been done
      with her hair, nails and makeup. She was lovely, and Ron told her so.
      "Aw, man! Show some cool!" muttered Roberto in a pained
      voice. But
      Ron knew his woman. Hermione glowed.

      Then, Ron showed her what he had spent an hour choosing: two small
      pendants, each shaped like half of a heart, engraved with an
      affectionate verse. One had a long, thick chain suitable for
      Ron's
      neck, while the other was shorter and more delicate, intended for
      Hermione. Hermione seemed delighted. "Ron, they're perfect!
      Just
      what we need!" Harry privately thought the things were decidedly
      tacky, but kept his opinion to himself, as his friends were clearly
      happy with them.

      There was coffee at Starbucks, then some window shopping, followed
      by lunch at an all-you-can-eat buffet where Ron and Sam did some
      serious damage to that day's profit margin. Next, they went to a
      multiplex theatre to see a film called 'Star Wars', which was a
      classic, Harry was told. It was loud, colourful, had a tissue-thin
      plot in which the characters seemed to spend most of their time
      running away, but Harry thought it was great fun to watch.
      Afterward, they stopped for cokes and ice cream. Finally, they made
      their way to what the Americans called the `parking lot', to
      catch
      their ride back to Xavier's.

      As they were standing and chatting, they heard a roar of machinery.
      A brilliant white light fixed on them. An amplified voice called
      out, "ATTENTION, MUTANTS! STAY WHERE YOU ARE!" Suddenly, the
      parking lot was full of armed men dressed in blue bodysuits with
      facemasks.

      The students retreated to the entryway and crouched behind waist-
      high walls. "Damn!" hissed Dani, "Hellfire Club mercs.
      What do we
      do, Ariel?"

      "We call for backup." Kitty pulled a device out of her
      jacket,
      thumbed a button and spoke urgently, "Ariel to Cyclops. We have a
      situation in the parking lot--Hellfire mercs."

      Scott's voice, surprisingly clear, came out of the
      communicator. "Understood. On our way. Hold them off, if you can.
      Cyclops out."

      "ATTENTION, MUTANTS! COME FORWARD ONE BY ONE. SURRENDER AND YOU
      WON'T GET HURT!"

      Kitty turned to Harry, expecting him and the others to be shocked,
      but she saw he was appraising the situation just as she was. For a
      moment, he reminded her of Scott, poised and in control, and she
      remembered some of the things he had told her about his past. He had
      been in battles before. Still…

      "Harry!" she said, "Get Ron and Hermione inside. The
      mercs aren't
      interested in you. It's us they want!"

      "We're supposed to just stand here, and let them take
      you?" Harry
      snorted, pulling out his wand.

      "Not bloody likely!" Hermione said, in a steely tone Kitty
      had never
      heard her use before.

      "What kind of friends do you think we are?" Ron asked hotly.

      "The best kind, looks like," murmured Sam.

      "But, Professor X said we were to keep you safe!" Kitty
      protested.

      "Ariel, we're three short," Roberto reminded her.
      "Without Colossus
      and Iceman, we're outgunned. If Harry and the others can help, I
      don't see that we have a choice."

      "Och, we've no' the time tae argue!" Rahne advised,
      her brogue
      coming out under the stress. "They're formin' up, an'
      they've
      stunners to the ready!"

      "MUTANTS! YOU HAVE ONE MINUTE TO COMPLY!"

      "O.k.," Ariel gave in. "O.k. Cannonball, Psyche, you two
      stop them
      forming up. Keep `em confused and off balance. Wolfsbane,
      Sunspot,
      get in there and mix it up. I'm gonna look for the command
      vehicle
      and try to disrupt their systems. Harry--"

      "We work best from a distance," said Harry crisply.
      "We'll stay by
      the edges, trying to keep you all covered, throwing hexes and curses
      to keep them off your backs. Ron, go left; Hermione, right. Watch me
      for signals."

      "THIRTY SECONDS!"

      "Cannonball, go!" barked Ariel.

      Sam moved out from cover, taking a few steps before the lower half
      of his body transformed into a column of smoke and flame. With a
      roar, he shot across the parking lot and slammed into the tight
      formation of mercenaries, scattering them like bowling pins. Dani
      rose to her feet, turning her Psyche senses on a group of men who
      had somehow stayed upright. Immediately, they began to scream,
      dropping their weapons and fleeing terrifying illusions of their
      darkest fears—images that Psyche had drawn from their minds.
      Roberto concentrated for a second, before all the color drained from
      his body, leaving a black, three-dimensional shadow shape that
      pounced on the dazed mercs and began striking with superhuman
      strength. Rahne, meanwhile, had stopped her transformation at a
      point midway between wolf and human, combining upright posture with
      lupine strength and agility. She, too, dashed into the fray. Ron and
      Hermione took up their positions, keeping to the periphery, looking
      for openings.

      Harry and Ariel locked eyes briefly. "Good luck," she
      breathed.
      Harry nodded once, and moved out. Ariel exhaled, then slipped
      through the nearest wall.

      The Hellfire Club mercenaries were tough and experienced, the best
      money could buy. They had been briefed on the abilities of the
      mutants they'd been sent to capture. A briefing was one thing,
      but
      to meet Sunspot and Wolfsbane in the flesh, was quite another. The
      mercs rallied, trying to regroup and to focus stunner fire on one or
      another of the mutants rampaging among them. But, every time they
      did so, Psyche or Cannonball struck. Even worse was the third
      factor, and unknown, for which the mercs had not prepared. Who were
      these others fighting alongside the muties?

      Sunspot was worried about this fight. As he told Ariel, they were
      three down, and though Rogue was reluctant to use her powers, the
      group usually relied heavily on her leadership. Sunspot and
      Wolfsbane were doing the best they could in the close fighting, but
      they missed Colossus, who was stronger than either of them and whose
      natural armor was immune to the high-energy stun bolts now
      crisscrossing the parking lot.

      Roberto picked up two mercenaries, slammed them together and dropped
      them to the asphalt. Too late, he felt something behind him and
      tried to turn. He heard Hermione yell, "EXPELLIARMUS!"
      Something
      whizzed over his shoulder. He completed his turn in time to see a
      merc stagger when a stunner flew violently out of his hands. Sunspot
      took advantage of the time he gained, flattening the man with a
      powerful right. He saw Hermione crouched behind a station wagon.
      She flicked him a quick salute with her wand before tossing another
      hex into the melee.

      It was the Wizarding factor that was turning the tide. Prepared for
      Xavier's students, the mercenaries had no defense against the
      three
      from Hogwarts. Harry, Ron and Hermione controlled the perimeter,
      flitting from cover to cover, setting up a crossfire of spells that
      prevented Wolfsbane and Sunspot from being overwhelmed or surprised
      from behind.

      Dani saw Ron dodge a stun bolt slightly too late. The blue energy
      grazed his right arm, which went limp. His wand clattered to the
      ground, and Ron dropped to one knee. The merc who had shot him
      walked over. "Stay down, kid, or you'll get hurt some more.
      Hey, you
      ain't no freakin' mutie! You're not showin' on my
      scanner!"

      The man let his stunner hang by his side for a moment while he
      stared at Ron. That was the opportunity Ron needed. His right arm
      might be numb, but his left was fully active. Ron uncoiled like a
      spring, his huge fist rising from near ground level to crash with
      sledgehammer force into the merc's jaw. Psyche reported
      afterwards
      that the man's feet lifted six inches off the ground before he
      collapsed, out cold. Ron swore, blew on his knuckles, then picked up
      his wand with his left hand.

      Harry was sniping steadily, mostly giving Cannonball room to make
      the short blasts that prevented the mercs from regrouping or
      concentrating fire, when he heard Professor X speak close by his
      ear. (Harry, can you hear me?)

      "Professor?" Harry didn't look around; he was still
      focusing on the
      fight.

      (There's no need to speak aloud. We are communicating
      telepathically. Now listen, Harry. Ariel has located the Hellfire
      Club command center. It's in the blue truck to your immediate
      left.
      Kitty is about to attack it. She may need your help to escape.)

      "Got it!" Harry spotted the vehicle and Ariel approaching
      from the
      side. She vaulted onto a nearby safety barrier, then leapt through
      the side of the truck. Harry moved in closer.

      (I have told Ariel to exit on the side by you.)

      Harry raised his wand. There was pandemonium inside the truck--
      yelling, swearing, and a sudden shout of "Don't fire that in
      here!", followed by the wasp-like snarl of a stun bolt and a
      series
      of muffled explosions. Just as the truck erupted into flames, Kitty
      dove through the side nearest Harry, executing a perfect forward
      roll and jumping to her feet. She ran toward Harry. Three mercs
      bounded from the front cab after her.

      Ariel had done her job. Phasing through the control systems in the
      command vehicle, she had disrupted all the electronics. The Hellfire
      Club comms were down and the containment unit meant for her and her
      friends was offline. The overeager young merc who had fired his
      stunner into a computer panel instead of Ariel had been a stroke of
      luck. Now, Ariel heard pursuers behind her. She had to make the
      wall, but she wasn't going fast enough.

      Harry was just ahead. "Kitty, get DOWN!" he barked. His voice
      was
      commanding; Kitty obeyed without thinking, dropping to the asphalt.
      She heard him shout foreign words and felt several somethings fly
      over her head. She twisted around to look behind her. One of the
      mercs had gone stiff as a board and was slowly toppling over.
      Another was sprawled unconscious, while the third was on her hands
      and knees vomiting live creatures in assorted colors. 'Gross!'
      thought Kitty, as she made her way over to Harry, who grabbed her,
      and pulled her to cover.

      "Cool moves, Harry!" she panted, "but those slimy things
      are nasty!"

      "You walk through walls; I make people puke slugs. We all have
      our
      talents, luv," said Harry absently, scanning the combat scene.

      WHAT had he called her? Focus, girl, thought Kitty. Get back to that
      one, later.

      She joined Harry in surveying the scene. The fight was pretty much
      over; most of the mercs were down, and the last couple were no match
      for Wolfsbane and Sunspot. Ron was flexing his right arm while Sam
      was thumping his back. Dani was hugging Hermione.

      It's not over, yet, thought Kitty desperately, as she heard the
      sound of more heavy vehicles drawing near. "Regroup!" she
      yelled,
      running towards her friends while three transports swept into the
      parking lot and began to disgorge more mercenaries. Overhead, a
      squadron of autogyros snarled by, turning directly for them.

      Ariel could see the shadow around Roberto was starting to flicker.
      The sun had gone down. Sunspot could only store so much energy.
      Wolfsbane still had enough stamina for three, and Cannonball could
      go on forever. Psyche looked determined but exhausted; using her
      powers drained her.

      Hermione was looking a little frazzled, but there was a set to her
      jaw that said she wouldn't stop until it was over. Ron clearly
      lived
      for this kind of thing, his head was up and his mouth was curved in
      a challenging grin; somebody was going to be in big trouble if he
      crossed Ron Weasley right now!

      Harry…Harry scared Ariel a little, even as she felt more
      attracted
      to him than ever. He was like ice--eyes blazing, mouth taut, body
      poised. Ariel was technically the leader, but she knew that if Harry
      started to give orders, she would obey him without question. They
      all would.

      The mercenaries were in no hurry to attack. The autogyros made
      escape nearly impossible, and the ground troops took their time
      forming up. They had seen their defeated colleagues and the burning
      truck. They no doubt assumed that there were powerful, adult mutants
      in the vicinity.

      Ariel's communicator beeped. "Ariel," she replied.

      "Wolverine here, less than a minute out. Sitrep?"

      "One merc squad down. Three more here, plus air cover. We're
      holding."

      "Copy. Where are the Brit kids?"

      Kitty smiled grimly. "Right in the thick of it, Logan, and doing
      one
      heckuva job!"

      "Figures. I get to tell Charlie I told him so. Sit tight,
      we're
      here! Wolverine out!"

      Kitty turned, as two vehicles swung into the lot behind them. One
      was the MPV with Cyclops at the wheel. The other was the modified
      Humvee, driven by Wolverine. The roof of the Hummer flipped open as
      it entered the lot. Storm and Banshee leapt through the gap, took to
      the air, and streaked overhead. Sean Cassidy turned the shattering
      power of his ultrasonic banshee scream on the merc squads,
      scattering the men and wrecking their vehicles.

      Storm directed her attention to the autogyros. As Harry, Ron and
      Hermione looked on, amazed, she broke their formation with hurricane-
      force winds, before knocking them out of the sky with precisely
      placed lightning strikes.

      Cyclops and Wolverine joined the fray. With one hand raised to his
      visor, Cyclops delivered short, devastatingly accurate bursts of the
      energy beams that burned from his eyes. The few mercs left standing
      after his and Banshee's attacks were the unlucky ones; they had
      to
      face the clawed fury that was Wolverine. Logan didn't stop or
      slow,
      he moved constantly, kicking, butting, punching, and slashing with
      his adamantium claws. It was over in minutes--or seemed to be.

      Harry went cold. There was darkness in his head and in front of his
      eyes, and there were voices in the darkness--voices that told him to
      give it up, that it was no good any more. The voices recalled his
      worst, blackest moments, parading them before him. Light and joy
      began to disappear.

      A Dementor? It was Harry's greatest fear, but he knew this evil,
      he
      knew how to defeat it. He called on the strength within himself--
      memories of the look in Molly Weasley's eyes when he had called
      her `Mum', images of Ron and Hermione in each other's
      arms, Kitty
      smiling up at him. He called on them all, making them real. He felt
      his energy surge.

      Harry's vision cleared somewhat. He could make out Hermione,
      clinging to Ron, while trying to speak. "Harry, it's
      not…" But he
      lost the rest as he swung around to face the source of the darkness.
      Harry had time to register that the figure before him was smaller
      than it should be, and white rather than black, but he was already
      committed.

      "EXPECTO PATRONUM!"

      The silver blaze from Harry's wand lit the entire car park. He
      heard
      exclamations: "Whoa!" from Cyclops, "Glory be!" from
      Banshee. There
      was a grim chuckle from Wolverine, while Storm whooped from pure
      exhilaration.

      The familiar stag form came out of the light. It seemed to Harry
      that it was larger, more powerful, than the last time. Lowering its
      head, the stag charged thunderously across the asphalt.

      Harry heard a woman's shriek of fear that became a cry of pain as
      a
      body fell with a thud and something fragile shattered. The dark
      voices in his head shut off. The stag was standing above a blonde
      woman in a white cloak, who was lying on the ground, staring up at
      the Patronus in terror. Under one of the stag's hooves, a silver
      device lay in fragments.

      Banshee touched down lightly near the prone woman. "If it
      isn't the
      White Queen, herself. I'd not be movin', Yer Majesty, or yon
      beastie
      will be givin' ye more perforations than a pincushion."

      "Call it off, Banshee!" the woman huffed, trying to sound
      commanding, though her voice shook.

      "Now, why would I be doin' that, with yer boys all ready to
      have at
      us again?"

      The blonde turned to Scott. "Cyclops! Get this thing away from
      me!"

      "If you were to call your men off, Ms. Frost, we might consider
      it."

      The woman glared at him, then pulled out a communicator similar to
      Kitty's. She said, "All units, this is the White Queen. Abort
      mission. Full withdrawal. Immediate!" She looked up at Scott,
      "Well?"

      "Harry?" asked Cyclops.

      Harry lowered his wand and held out his other hand. The stag gave
      one more threatening toss of its head, then turned and trotted back
      to him, vanishing as usual just before Harry could touch his muzzle.

      The White Queen got to her feet with as much dignity as she could
      muster, giving an irritated signal with her hand. A white limousine
      pulled up to her. As she climbed into it, she looked back at them
      all. "This isn't over, " she vowed.

      "It never will be," Scott told her, "while we're
      still here."

      Harry relaxed, and looked around him. The others were settling down,
      taking stock. The three couples checked each other for injuries.
      Logan's heavy hand came down on Harry's shoulder and squeezed
      lightly. "Nice moves, kid," growled Wolverine.

      Then, Hermione was hugging Harry and Ron was pounding his
      back. "Another great fight, mate!" roared Ron.

      "I'm sorry, Harry," Hermione apologized. "I was
      trying to tell you
      it wasn't a Dementor. I didn't think the Patronus Charm would
      work
      on anything else, so I didn't try it myself!"

      "That's what you get for thinking too much, darlin',
      " Logan
      warned. "Better to use your instincts, like Harry, or you miss
      your
      shot."

      Soon, everyone was congratulating everyone else. The expression on
      Ron's face as Sam and Roberto hugged him briefly and thumped his
      back was priceless! Finally, Kitty came up to Harry, embracing him
      and kissing his cheek. She stepped back to say, "Harry, that was
      truly awesome! Way better than the slug thing!"

      Only Cyclops wasn't happy. He loomed over Harry and Kitty, his
      mouth
      tight. "Just exactly what did you think you were doing, Harry?
      Getting involved like that? Putting yourself and your friends in
      danger?" Scott demanded.

      Harry felt a flash of anger. He glared at Scott and snapped, "I
      did
      exactly what you would have done in the same situation!"

      There was a moment's silence. Scott's jaw actually dropped.
      Banshee
      roared with laughter. "Ye have to admit, Cyke, the lad has you
      there!"

      "Gotcha!" called Storm, through gales of silvery laughter.
      "Right
      between the eyes."

      Cyclops grinned ruefully and shook his head at Harry. "OK,
      we'll say
      no more about it. Now, all of you, back in the car. Let's go
      home."

      Inside the MPV, the students arranged themselves into couples: Sam
      and Rahne, Dani and Roberto, Ron and Hermione, and Harry and Kitty.
      As Kitty sat beside him, Harry, without thinking, wrapped his arm
      around her. Kitty snuggled in, resting her head on Harry's
      shoulder
      as the car sped into the night.
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