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A Sentinel at Hogwarts

Part III: Hogwarts-Express

by Meanthis and Lime-chan

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The train-station was rather overrun. Hundreds of people seemed to have chosen this particular day travel. Additional to the already highly uncomfortable noise-level came the fact that just today a little defect had befallen the speaker system. Every time someone was trying to make an announcement the words drowned in the terrible whistle of the feedback.

Jim had a real hard time to hold control over the dials of his senses. Every time another train was announced his control slipped again. He had already dialled down his hearing below normal levels, but it wasn't of much use in his momentary situation: An unknown territory, too much sensory input, general stress and the fact that he was still trying to process everything that had happened this day. The most unusually shopping trip in his life. It wasn't so bad, as long as Jim didn't try to understand what exactly had gone on most of the time. He finally started to understand Simon's attitude towards all Sentinel things. The policy of I-Don't-Want-To-Know! was certainly healthier for ones sanity.

Jim had never ever thought that Blair would need so many things for his teacher position. But the point were Jim had definitely stopped thinking about what was happening was when Blair dragged him into a shop for brooms. Flying brooms! During the animated conversation between the salesman and Blair Jim had stopped trying to process. Already everything seemed to be a strange dream, but the image of his partner flying on a broom had been too much. Most of all if you thought about Blair's dislike of heights. But Blair had insisted that he wasn't suicidal enough to use a school-broom and that a witch-broom would be of use outside of Hogwarts. And this was something Jim didn't want to think about. No, he really didn't want to speculate about Simon's possible reaction…

Jim flinched violently when another announcement blared through the defect speaker-system, twisted by the horrible high whistle of the feedback. The next moment he could feel Blair's pleasantly familiar hand on his back and in the space of a second all his senses concentrated on his guide who was looking rather concerned:

"You okay?”

"I will be, as soon as we get somewhere quite! To which platform do we need to go?"

Despite the obvious tension radiating from Blair, the young man managed a small mischievous smile:

"Platform 10 5/6!" he explained. Jim stopped his walking abruptly and stared at his friend, before he managed to say:

"10 5/6? You're pulling my leg, aren't you?”

"No, I'm serious. Platform 9 ¾ is closed due to some reconstructions."

Jim stared for a moment then decided that his policy of not trying to understand would work better in this case.

"I've warned you, Jim," Blair remarked smiling, urging his Sentinel to start walking again, "The wizard world isn't normal at all. But then, normal is really a relative term. Some wizards I know would be absolutely lost in the Muggle-world. For them the wizard realm is normality…"

Blair talked on, completely absorbed in what Jim called lecture mode. He wasn't really paying attention what exactly Blair was saying, it was just good to listen to the familiar soothing sound and rhythm of his Guide talking. With this anchor it was considerably easier to keep control over the dials. Sometimes Jim wondered if this wasn't the exact reason why Blair did this.

"Okay Jim, I think we may have a problem here."

Jim was a little startled with Blair's sudden stop and looked around. They were standing in front of a… wall?

"What's the matter, Chief? Are we lost?" Jim joked good naturally. Blair's expression turned sour.

"Man, I read the map wrong one damn time… No Jim, we're not lost. I know exactly were we are!"

Blair stopped and cast a quick glance around, if there was anybody listening.

"The problem is, since we don't want every Muggle to find our platforms, they are hidden. We need to move through this!"

With this words Blair pointed towards the wall. The very solid looking wall. And he didn't leave Jim any chance to ask if he was serious but continued with his explanation:

"I have absolutely no idea how your senses are going to react to this. Please, dial everything down slightly under normal levels, okay?"

Jim just nodded. Experience had taught him that in some situations it was just healthier to trust his guide, even if he was too stubborn to admit it. While Jim concentrated on the dials he could hear Blair's low voice:

"Pull touch and hearing down another notch, but not too far, you understand. I don't want to risk you getting a sensory spike… Everything ready?"

Jim nodded again. He didn't like to suppress his senses like this, but better safe than sorry. Blair's hand moved in a soothing pattern up and down Jim's right arm.

"Then we can go!"

"One more question here, Chief. How do you intend to get through this wall?"

Blair's small smile blossomed into an actually, rather mischievous, grin.

"By walking through it."

Jim stared. Blair sniggered.

"Come on, I'm serious. It may be a slightly weird feeling to walk through a wall, but I can assure you that it will work!"

With this words Blair dragged the still hesitating man towards the wall. He didn't give Jim any time but literally pushed his friend into the wall.

After appearing on the other side, Jim decided that Blair had been right: it was a weird experience. And it had definitely been a good idea to dial his senses down. He had been closer to an actually Zone than he liked.

On the platform chaos reigned. Children of all ages were running around, reluctant parents were saying goodbye to their offspring and giving last minute advices and orders (like that washing yourself behind the ears now and then was a good thing), suitcases were blocking the way every few steps, which didn't seem to bother anyone and at some places little groups of people were standing together, also blocking the way.

Jim cast a long look around, his senses raised again. Blair smiled at his friend while moving beside him. This behaviour was instinctive for the Sentinel. Jim probably didn't even realise that he had placed himself protective in front of his guide, while he was searching the surroundings for potential dangers. He left his friend a few moments before interrupting:

"We probably should hurry a bit Jim. We're rather late."

"When was there ever an occasion when you didn't arrive in the last minute?" Jim responded smiling and easily ducked the playful swat Blair aimed in his direction.

********************

Harry, Ron and Hermione had, like the years before, gathered together in one compartment, munching sweet (at this there had been a longer lecture about the dangers of caries from Hermione) and were recapitulating the holiday events. Until now they were all in agreement that Ron's holidays had been the best. He had spent the entire time with his brother Charlie, watching dragons and even getting an original dragon-tooth as a souvenir. Hermione had dared to doubt that the tooth was real, which sparked a heated discussion between her and Ron. Harry had chosen to stay out of it and observed his bickering friends with a broad grin on his face, generally happy to go back to school. His summer had been everything besides exciting. He had spent it with the Dursleys who were treating him like thin air. At least they were too wary of his little tricks to bother him too much. The only good things during these long weeks had been the letters from Sirius. His godfather had spent some time in America and apparently met an old friend. That was all he had written, but Harry concluded that there was more to it. The way Sirius mentioned it implied that this friend was on his side.

"Have you heard? We're going to get a new teacher for Dark Arts."

Harry was startled out of his thoughts by Ron's words. The argument about the authenticity of the dragon-tooth was apparently over (Ron had won!).

"This is nothing new." declared Hermione and even stopped sulking for a few moments "We're always getting new teachers in this subject!"

"Yes, I know." Ron answered slightly miffed, "But this year there is something special about it. Mom and Dad were talking about it. The new teacher must have caused some uproar in the ministry. But Dad wouldn't say what the whole anxiety was about. Said something about it being a secret."

"I read in the Daily-Prophet that we'll get two different teachers. The first one will just be a substitute until the other can come."

"It's the first one. I think he'll only be in Hogwarts for a few weeks. But there is something about him that caused a real commotion."

"And you really don't know why?" asked Harry again. Ron shook his head and Hermione started to say something but the door opening interrupted her. A tall, muscular man in plain muggle-clothing looked in.

"Are there two seats free in here?" He asked and seemed to look at all three children at the same time.

"Of course," said Hermione, before Ron or Harry could even take a breath. For a moment the man fixed his intensive stare at Hermione, then he nodded and turned around:

"Hey Chief! I've found seats for us!"

With this words the man left, only to reappear a few moments later together with another, younger man and some bags and suitcases.

"Hello!" greeted the younger one while trying to stow his bag away. He laughed at all three children and then sank sighing into his seat.

"Finally!"

"If you had held back a bit with your shopping, Chief, we could have made it to the station sooner."

The younger one send a glare towards his companion, before turning towards Harry, Ron and Hermione.

"I think we should introduce ourselves. My name is Blair Sandburg and this is my friend James Ellison."

The three returned the introduction. When Harry said his name Blair send him a short, but all the more intense look, but he didn't comment.

"Why are you travelling to Hogwarts?" asked Hermione with her typical mix of curiosity and arrogance. Blair exchanged a short meaningful look with his companion before answering:

"I'm going to teach for a couple of weeks until the regular teacher is able to take over."

Not a word why his friend was coming with him. For a long moment the three children were stunned. A moment ago they had thought about this new teacher and now he was sharing their compartment. How was this for coincidence? Before Harry or Ron had the chance to ask any questions Hermione interrupted (once again) with a thoughtful tone of voice:

"Sandburg?… I think I know this name…"

Suddenly her head shoot up and she stared directly at the young man:

"Of course! I read your name in The newer history of Hogwarts! It's written there that Blair Sandburg was the only student ever who managed to end his education sooner. And with the best marks of the decade! From what's mentioned there you should have been one of the best wizards of the century!"

Blair's cheeks had gone deep red during Hermione's monologue and now he could feel all looks on him.

"I didn't know you were this famous, Chief," Jim said, teasing gently. Blair just shrugged, averting his friend's look. Hermione, who had missed Jim's words, took the silence as a reason to talk on:

"The book says also that you disappeared from the wizard-world? Why? You would have had a fantastic carrier…?"

"And a very short live, considering how the things were back then," Blair interrupted silently which managed to shut Hermione up. The three children exchanged troubled looks. Nearly inaudible the young man added:

"Too many…"

After a few seconds silent reverie Blair turned towards Hermione with a sad little smile on his face:

"You know, Si, Remus and James asked me almost the same question back then. For me, my studies in the Muggle world were simply more important. The others never understood this, and I've grown tired to explain it."

Harry had stiffened slightly when he heard the names the new teacher mentioned. Could it be that Mr. Sandburg had known his father and the rest of the Marauders?

After Blair's last words an uncomfortable silence had settled over the compartment. No one seemed to know what to say. Finally it was Blair himself who broke the silence:

"What has been going on in Hogwarts the last years? I was completely out of the hoop. Which house won the Qidditch cup last year for example?"

This question was all the three children needed to start a long enthusiastic tale about the events of the last school years. Blair listened highly interested while Jim leaned back and observed his friend. He didn't particular like the implications of what Blair had said a few minutes earlier. '…A short live, considering…'? What the hell did he mean with this? Jim hadn't really tried to learn more about Blair's past as a wizard or his reasons for leaving this life behind. He had just accepted the explanation his friend had given him. But now he was wondering. Was there any danger Blair hadn't told him about?

Beside these thoughts Jim had this tingling feeling all over his skin since the moment they stepped onto the platform. It wasn't really uncomfortable, just a bit strange. Without knowing exactly what he was doing Jim let his newly discovered sense wander, careful not to provoke a zone. Suddenly he shot up in his seat. He didn't know what exactly he had felt, but in his mind it represented danger. He heard people moving around outside, children obviously. But what was it about those children that sparked every instinct inside the Sentinel, that there was danger?

The door slid open and Jim fixed a look upon the newcomers that was known to scare even seasoned policemen and felons. They were only children. Three boys in the same age like the children in their compartment. Jim was still trying to decide if his Sentinel instinct had gone insane for good while Blair turned to the newcomers. The younger man tried to smile, but his eyes remained hard. The blond boy was reminding him of somebody he once had known. An acquaintance Blair would have happily denied.

"Draco, what do you want?"

Hermione sounded very annoyed. Why couldn't this creep at least stay away until they actually arrived at Hogwarts?

"Certainly nothing from you, mudblood!" Draco shot back with his trademark arrogance. Then he turned to Harry:

"So Potter, back for another year of defeats? And still sporting the same bad company…"

"Who's bad company?" Ron interrupted. Draco had the unique ability to push Ron's buttons. And of course the blond boy was very aware of it.

"I would say you and the mudblood over there."

"You!…" Ron started but was interrupted by Harry who really wasn't in the mood for another fight with Malfoy:

"Leave him alone Draco! Why are you here?"

Draco didn't answer the question but said:

"What is the matter Potter? Do you need bodyguards now?" He asked indicating towards Blair and Jim. The detective was starting to develop a definite dislike for this boy, while Blair smiled sweetly at the boy:

"I don't think I caught your name?"

Oh oh, thought Jim. It was a dangerous sign if Blair got this polite. It usually meant that what he wanted to say was beyond X-rated.

"I'm Draco Malfoy. And you?"

"Malfoy?" Blair asked back without answering the question "Should have known. The attitude sure as hell bred into the next generation… My name is Sandburg."

"Yeah, my father told me about the mudblood teacher who's coming to Hogwarts. Dumbledore must be becoming senile."

"I may be a so-called mudblood, boy," Blair said sweetly "But nonetheless am I a rather good wizard. Certainly a better one than you. And beside this, I will be the person who grades your class work…"

Draco stared at Blair. He was definitely not used to people talking to him like this and now he needed a few moments to regroup. Before he had the chance to say anything else he thought he heard a low growl. Turning around he came eye to eye with the other adult. A big and strong man who was looking at him with a look that promised a very painful death. Offhand Draco decided that he could annoy his favourite enemy later and retreated together with his escort.

Mr. Sandburg looked at his companion, trying to suppress a laugh. Jim Ellison looked back, smiling sheepishly.

"What was the meaning of this, Jim?" Blair asked grinning. Jim grinned back:

"I didn't like this boy. Something about him was setting me off."

"You don't say. The way you looked at him, even Simon would have fled. Thank you for getting rid of him."

The sheepish look returned to Jim's features and Blair laughed openly.

Hermione had observed everything highly interested. She hadn't missed the reaction of Mr. Ellison and was wondering about it. It was strange. Who, or better yet what, was Jim Ellison? Mr. Sandburg hadn't said anything about the reason why his companion was travelling to Hogwarts. He couldn't be a muggle, but was he a wizard? Hermione curiosity had awoken. There was a secret to reveal.

END

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