"This was a bad idea."
"You've mentioned that already."
"I know. I just want to reinforce the fact that I think this is a very, very bad idea."
Pain stood behind her two arguing friends, shivering in the chill air of the forest. Secretly, she agreed with Kitty.
"We should have brought Rogue," she whispered, and at once the two girls fell silent, turning to look at the younger girl.
"We couldn't bring Rogue," Jubilee reminded her, needlessly. "She didn't want us to even go, remember?"
"Anyway," Kitty's eyes were already facing front again. Ever attentive Kitty. "Between my phasing and Jubilee's sparkles-"
"Fireworks!" Jubilee corrected indignantly.
"-we'll be fine, even if they are only saying this stuff so they can throw you into some dark cell."
"I almost hope it is a trick." Unlike her last comment, this was to herself. If either of the others heard it, they kept it to themselves.
Jubilee checked her watch. "Well, it's five past eleven. I say we wait another five minutes, then call it a-"
Four people appeared out of thin air in front of them. Even for three students who experienced demon-like creatures appearing and disappearing in front of them on a daily basis, the atmosphere of the creepy forest and the arrival without warning made them jump.
But they were X-Men in training, and reacted as such. As Jubilee slipped into a balanced stance, Kitty grabbed her friend's wrists, readying to phase. Even Pain sucked in a deep breath, preparing herself as well as she could.
At first glance, none of the newcomers looked at all dangerous. But that meant nothing. Neither did they.
Three of them were young. Their arrival seemed a bit rocky, as they stumbled and almost fell. One of them, a boy with the brightest red hair Pain had ever seen, was only saved from a meeting with the ground by the girl's quick hand.
The fourth person had no trouble remaining upright. He was tall, clothed in flowing black robes that would have appeared out of place on anyone but him. He was old, too.
His eyes met Pain's, and a lazy quiver rolled throughout her body. Old could not possibly sum this man up. He felt ancient. Her bones ached just from looking at him.
The three teenagers had steadied themselves. There was a short muttered conversation, and they turned to face the waiting trio.
Pain thought that maybe she would know. Somehow, something would click in her mind, and she would know. But all three faces looked out of place and alien to her.
The man stepped forward, a wise smile on his lips. Kitty was suddenly grateful for the mind shields that the Professor had made all of them master. There was something in that smile that made her worry about the safety of her own thoughts.
"I'm Professor Albus Dumbledore." He looked at each of them in turn. "Which one of you is Penny Ronwle-Potter?"
Pain shifted. Hearing her name fall out of a stranger's lip made her feel uncomfortable. Lifting her chin, she took another deep breath and attempted a small smile.
Her voice sounded strange to her, faced with the man's thick accent. When had her own accent faded? It was weak and pale, compared to his. Almost embarrassing.
But he didn't mention it, just smiled at her, his eyes twinkling over his half-moon spectacles. "You look like your mother."
Such a simple sentence, but suddenly Pain found it hard to breathe. Her head began to spin, and Kitty's hand tightened around her wrist.
"And how did you know her mother?" Jubilee asked, her voice not betraying any of the uneasiness that she felt. Not for the first time today, Pain thanked whatever it was that had made her give in to her friends when they had begged to come with her.
Professor Dumbledore shifted his gaze to Jubilee, his smile not shifting. "She was a student of mine. As was her father."
Kitty had turned to Pain, worry obvious on her features. The girl was looking paler than usual, and her eyes were stretched wider than Kitty would have thought possible. But she was supporting her own weight again, and her mouth was moving.
"Which one of you is my cousin?"
The black haired boy stepped forward, his green eyes wide behind a pair of glasses.
Pain searched desperately for something to prove their story true, but there was nothing familiar waiting in his features. In fact, the only thing that they appeared to have in common was their black hair. But his was practically feral compared to her dead straight tresses.
"Hello," he said simply. He looked awkward, uncomfortable, and there was their common ground. She felt as if she were bathed in a spotlight. She had never liked being the center of attention.
There was a moment of silence as they stared at each other, both disbelieving, but for different reasons. It was only when Jubilee nudged her shoulder that Pain remembered her manners.
"Um, these are my friends. Jubilee," the girl gave a flutter of her fingers in a wave "and Kitty." Kitty smiled, and released her grip on Pain's arm.
Harry gave a jerky nod of his head. "Nice to meet you. This is Ron" the redhead attempted a smile that looked as shaky as Pain felt. "And Hermione."
Hermione was looking in interest at the X symbol on Kitty's sweatshirt. "You ll go to the same school, then?"
"Yep." Jubilee was doing the talking again, to the relief of Pain. "In fact, we should probably head back there soon. We're not really supposed to be out."
Pain did the only thing she could do. Her eyes were still fixed on the boy that was Harry Potter. He hadn't looked away either. "You are welcome to come back with us, of course. It would be more comfortable then this forest."
The two others glanced at their professor. Harry didn't flinch.
"That sounds wonderful. I'm sure that Ms. Ronwle-Potter has lots of questions," if he noticed her blink rapidly at the sound of her name, he didn't waiver. "and I have something to discuss with your Headmaster."
It was almost scary, how relieved Pain was to hear that they would come to the mansion, even if they did keep calling her by her real name. Even if they did end up to be nothing more than some new threat. She didn't find herself caring.
As they began the walk back, however, and the three children were talking to each other, Kitty raised an eyebrow at Pain.
"This wasn't part of the plan."
"We didn't have a plan, remember?" Pain has to resist turning her head to make sure they were still right behind them.
Jubilee snorted, then got serious again. "Do you think they are- you know?"
"Well, one of them can teleport."
"You really think they teleported from England?"
"We don't know if they're from England. They could be faking."
"Those accents sound real to me." Pain interrupted. "And I would know."
There was a moment of silence. Then Kitty sighed. "One of them must be a ridiculously strong teleporter, then."
"And why hasn't Cerebro picked them up?"
Jubilee's last comment dropped into a lull in the forgieners' conversation, and there was a tense pause. Then Harry asked his friend a question about something called a Portkey, and the moment passed.
"You think the word Cerebro would get more of a raise out of a possible mutant," Jubilee whispered.
Pain didn't have anything to say at this. Her mind had drifted, playing with the problem that walked behind them, trying to unravel it like she did with a paperback mystery's plot. But no obvious solutions came to mind. No easy answers.
The Professor would know what to do, was the thought she kept coming back to.
If she had turned around, like she so desperately wanted to, she would have seen the knowing twinkle in Dumbledore's eyes. But she didn't turn.
So, this chapter deviated totally from the original chapter two, but I think it turned out a lot better. Please, if there's anything that struck you as off, don't hesitate to call me on it. I'll admit, I am a little worried about the Harry Potter characters, especially Dumbledore. I find him quite difficult to portray.
And now I have a question. At first, I was going to keep this a general fic, with no pairings. But I just love cross-fandom couples, and am tempted to change that. What do you think? Any interesting pairings come to mind? (Note: the pairings could involve other students from Hogwarts. I doubt 'The Golden Trio' will be the only wizards at Xavier's for long)