The Reader

Disclaimer: JKR is a much better writer. And I don't own the Wizard of Oz, Battlestar Galactica, Sunshine, or anything else I may reference.

Part One: Eros

Chapter 1: Transcendental

Who am I? I'm Spiderman.

Just kidding. Yes, I know that was cheesy, but if I opened up with, "Hey, my name is...blah blah blah, and this is my story, insert interesting events here," how cliche would that be?

Besides, I've come to the conclusion that who I was before doesn't really matter anymore. All that matters came after.

After what?

Well, after waking up in Headmaster Albus Dumbledore's office, in the year 1976, after going to sleep in my bed somewhere in Upstate New York, 2008.

Freaky dream, right? Dorothy-like. I almost broke out in a chorus of "we're off to see the wizard," but that didn't seem appropriate.

It probably took me about six months to believe it was real. Before that I was just playing along.

He asked me all the usual questions, and, to my surprise, I found I couldn't answer them. Well, most of them, anyway. I somehow managed to communicate to him where I was from, that as far as I knew, here wasn't supposed to exist, and that I knew a great deal more about him than was strictly advisable.

"Tell me something, then," he said, when he understood.

You know when you open your mouth to speak, and no sound comes out? Or when, for some reason or other, you tell some extremity to move, and it doesn't obey? Or you try to wiggle your ears, but you just don't have that gene?

None of that really accurately describes this paralysis.

I couldn't. I simply couldn't say anything. It was an ability I just didn't have.

That felt odd, because I can speak perfectly fine.

I mean, when I'm not nervous and stammering, or trying to explain something when I really have no idea what the hell I'm talking about.

I couldn't even open my mouth to exhale the air that would ordinarily flow through my vocal chords to form sounds that would then pass through my carefully shaped lips to create syllables that somehow, strung together, added up to something more meaningful than grunting and pointing.

Actually, I couldn't even have grunted and pointed this information.

I just couldn't.

Apparently my eyes expressed enough of my frustration that Dumbledore caught on.

He sat back in his chair, satisfied. "Interesting."

"What do you mean?" I managed to say.

"You appear to be under some sort of charm, the origin or extent of which I cannot guess, but it prevents you from affecting the future," he informed me.

It irked me that he knew more about my condition than I did, when, technically, we should have both have been new to this.

"But how...?" I started to say.

He folded his hands together. "You think I should know? I am simply telling you what I have observed. You have obviously been placed here purposefully, and with careful measures taken, or you could not have arrived at all."

"I'm rather inclined to think I ate something funny at dinner, and this is all just a very annoying dream," I muttered.

He chuckled. "I think not. Any other theories?"

"God has an interesting sense of humor?"

His smile broadened. "If that be the case, then you should not fear. I believe any preacher would tell you it means you are here for a reason."

"I hate it when people say that," I said grumpily.

His eyes twinkled, as it has been mentioned so many times that they do. Truth is, there is no other way to describe it, but, as I said, it has been over-played, so I shall try to refrain from speaking of it often myself.

"Well, your mysterious arrival aside, we have other business to discuss," Dumbledore said.

"Such as?" I suppose I wasn't very respectful. But really, should one be respectful to their dreams?

Not that it really was a dream, but I didn't know that then.

"Such as what I'm going to do with you."

"Oh." I was suddenly apprehensive. Would he deem me a security risk? Would he lock me away for the rest of my dream-existence? How much dream time would that take? How much real time would it take?

"Don't worry," he said with a broad smile. "I'm not going to lock you up."

If he could read minds, what was the point of the charm?

He studied me for a moment. "You are magical, yes?"

Say what?

"Uh...no, but then again, I didn't believe in magic until about forty minutes ago. I still don't...not really."

Gently, he held out his wand to me. The Elder Wand. I gulped, then raised an eyebrow at him.

"Go ahead," he said, but added when my hand closed around the slender stick, "but I will be wanting it back."

It was smooth and felt good in my hand.

He stood up, crossed the room, and removed an object from a cupboard. When he turned back to face me, I saw that it was a feather. He set it down on the desk in front of me.

Swish and flick, I thought.

Swish and flick, I did, thinking the words, not saying them aloud. To my utter astonishment, the feather lifted.

First try too.

Take that, Hermione!

I looked up at him in amazement.

"It seems you have at least some idea what you're doing," he said, smiling down at me. That smile, the kind that reaches into the eyes, and you know comes from the heart, nearly made me feel at home right then and there.

Nearly.

"I'll have Ollivander come here tomorrow, to see if we can't get you a wand," he said, retrieving his own. "I'm guessing you could probably start with those children that are your own age and not be placed with the first years. You will learn fast, I have no doubt. No doubt. And the teachers and likely the other students will help you."

"Just tell them all I'm a stupid American," I mumbled. "They'll believe that story."

"Probably," he chuckled. "How old are you?"

"Sixteen," I said, without thinking. Then I frowned. I was not sixteen. At least, I wasn't when I left home. Could that really have changed too?

"I thought so," he said. "Can you give me a name? It needn't be your real name. I doubt you will be able to tell me that. Just give me one you will feel comfortable going by. Something you know you will answer to."

He was right. I couldn't tell him my real name. I really tried. Like his future prospects, the thought was lost before I could connect it to my windpipe. I picked the next best thing.

"Kara Thrace," I told him, smiling to myself at the joke. My nickname in highschool was "Starbuck." My best friend had started it, and it sort of caught on.

"Very well, Miss Thrace," he said. "One last bit of business, then."

He moved across the room again. He had a very graceful walk, almost a glide, but with a touch of up-and-down to it, just enough to let you know he was human. From a stand he retrieved a very battered-looking hat.

The Sorting Hat. My eyes widened.

"You know what this is?"

I nodded, unable to speak. My stomach was knotting. I wasn't sure why, as there was no one there to witness my humiliation.

What was there to be humiliated about? It was a hat, for crying out loud, and not a very formidable one at that.

Um, hello, that hat could see into your soul.

He placed it on my head, and it was so large it flopped down over my face.

I wondered it if ever got annoyed at being breathed on.

The hat laughed.

"I do," it said.

Um...

"Ever wonder why I barely touch some heads?" it said. "I'd rather keep contact with certain individuals to a minimum, thank you."

I thought you just knew that quickly where they belonged?

"Sometimes," the hat said, "that is true. And I would never shirk my duties for personal comfort. But sometimes..." It shuddered on my head. I laughed. Despite my nervousness, I rather liked the hat.

"So where shall I put you?"

You're not seriously leaving this up to me?

"Not really, no. Slytherin is out, Ravenclaw also.

Duh. Too anti-prejudice. Too stupid.

"Exactly."

Thanks.

"Anytime. Now, Gryffindor or Hufflepuff? Which shall it be?"

I should think it would be obvious.

"Should you?"

Yes, Hufflepuff. Isn't that where all the rejects go?

"That's not a very nice thing to say."

I didn't say it. I thought it.

"Well, well. Maybe you belong in Ravenclaw after all."

I scowled. I just meant that Hufflepuff will take anyone, without requirement. I don't belong in any of the houses.

"Why not Gryffindor?"

Hello? I'm not brave.

"Yes, you are. Braver than you think. And you'll need still more courage as you go on."

That sounds promising.

"It is, actually, and now that we've gotten that out of the way...

"GRYFFINDOR!"

Wait! What?

But it was too late. The hat was no longer on my head, and Dumbledore was smiling down at me.

"I suppose I should send for Professor McGonagall."