Never Underestimate A Devious Mind

"Where are we going?" Jim demanded irately as he dodged an elderly couple while trying to follow Blair and his father. Once he and his Guide had packed and made arrangements to be gone until further notice, Snape had shrunk their bags until they could fit all of their luggage into their pockets. Then he'd dragged them outside and started leading them west, without any explanations.

"To the park," Snape replied as he looked left, right, and left again before crossing the street towards their destination. "I do not rightly know how Apparation will affect you, being a Sentinel, and I want to do a few practice jaunts with you first before I take you both across the ocean."

"What could go wrong?" Blair asked worriedly. "I mean, it's only his senses that are heightened…"

"You're prone to motion sickness, yes?" Snape directed at Ellison as he walked down an almost deserted pathway further into the park.

Jim nodded and ducked a low-hanging tree branch. "Seasickness mostly; I do fine in cars and helicopters, not so well in planes."

"Apparation is a kind of travel; queasiness during transport is actually quite common, so it has the possibility to severely affect you. Ah, here we are," Snape said, coming upon a small clearing. "This should do nicely."

Scanning the nearby copses of trees, Jim nodded. "There isn't anyone around for about three or four blocks in any direction."

"Good, that will make things easier," Snape said. "We won't have to worry about any muggles seeing us."

Blair nodded in silent agreement.

"Now, stand on either side of me," Snape instructed briskly, and when the Sentinel and his Guide complied, he reached out and grabbed their hands. "I'm just going to transport us across this clearing. You'll want to close your eyes to help combat the vertigo," he warned.

Both Jim and Blair closed their eyes and tried to relax.

"Ready?" Snape asked at length.

The both nodded. "Ready," Blair added.

A tugging sensation at their skin was the only warning before it began. They both felt a pulling sensation, the promised vertigo rearing its disorientating head, and then it stopped almost before it began – with them on the other side of the clearing.

Blinking open his eyes, Blair turned quickly to Jim, dropping Snape's hand to see to his Sentinel. "You all right, Big Guy?" he asked in a quiet voice.

There was a slightly glassy look on Jim's face, and his pupils were dilated – not a zone-out, but his senses were definitely on high. He blinked as well, the haze clearing from his eyes. "Yeah," he said. "It was…weird…but I'm okay, Chief."

Blair gave his lover a measuring look, ensuring that Jim was telling him the truth, before nodding in acceptance. Turning to Snape, he said, "We're good."

"I am elated and overwhelmed by this wondrous corroboration of information," Snape said caustically, though not without appreciation for the results of their experiment.

More likely elated we don't have to 'waste time' acclimating Jim to travel by Apparation, Blair thought bemusedly. Less than half an hour in his company, and Blair could already tell that his 'father' was not a very friendly person. It wasn't in his nature to be unnecessarily nice to people, even his own son. But at least he's genuine in his expressions of feeling, Blair thought. Which is more than you can say about seventy-five percent of the people you meet.

"All right, then," Snape said briskly. "Resume your former positions, and I will take us to Hogwarts."

Blair and Jim did as directed; once their hands were all connected, the pulling-tugging vertigo-inducing sensation started up again, this time lasting for almost a minute rather than a few seconds. When it finally ceased, Blair opened his eyes to see that they were in a small forest clearing. After spending a few moments taking in his surroundings, he remembered Jim. Quickly turning towards his lover, he breathed a sigh of relief as he saw that Jim was all right.

Jim gave his lover a nod, indicating that he was all right, before turning to Snape. "Where are we?" he asked.

"We are right outside of Hogwarts," Snape said. "The school is warded to prevent people from Apparating right onto the school grounds, so we shall have to walk half a mile or so. Follow me."

Without waiting for their agreement, Snape turned down a nearby road, and they followed him down the winding pathway. It was only about ten minutes before they reached in a clearing in front of a large castle. It was straight out of a fairytale: huge, black, with turrets and towers, and a large spiked fence encircling it. There was an aura of mystery and, of course, magic about it, making the castle seem not so sinister as its dark appearance would indicate. There was no moat, but there was a drawbridge, and for some reason, Blair kept expecting a dragon to fly down on them from somewhere.

And in the middle of the clearing, standing right in front of the gate in the fence, was a man. A man who could also have been right out of a fairytale. He was dressed in blue robes covered with silver stars, making him look eerily – and rather cheesily – like Merlin had been portrayed Disney's 'Sword and the Stone'. His mane of long white hair was topped by a conical hat covered with more stars, and, incongruous with his magical attire, he was sucking on what appeared to be a lemon lollipop.

"Albus Dumbledore," Snape grumbled under his breath. "He's the Headmaster here at Hogwarts. Don't let his apparent insanity fool you – a more devious mind it has never been my displeasure to meet."

Catching sight of them – though Jim could tell the old man had known they were there since even before they'd entered the clearing – Dumbledore turned to them and smiled. "Ah, Severus, I see you have returned from your trip abroad," he greeted them, tucking the lollipop somewhere in his voluminous robes.

Jim almost chuckled as he recognized the look on Snape's face – it was the same one he himself used to get back when Blair first showed up: a combination of 'that is the most annoying person on the planet' and 'Good God, why do I put up with him?' with a little dash of 'I know he's only trying to help' thrown in for good measure.

"Yes, Headmaster, I have," Severus agreed curtly.

"It's always wonderful to welcome someone new into the family, isn't it, Severus?" Albus asked cheerily, smiling as he gestured towards Blair. "And in this case you get two instead of just one."

Snape's eye twitched. "Yes, only most people welcome new children soon after birth, not thirty years late."

Albus' eyes twinkled. "Well, then, it works out best all around, doesn't it?"

Snape only gave him a look, as if to say 'It does?'.

"We need a new Muggle Studies teacher, and I can't think of anything better than two people who've lived as muggles," Albus pronounced, giving both Jim and Blair a cheery smile.

"Muggle Studies?" Blair asked faintly.

"Oh, boy," Jim groaned.