Progress Notes: yes, it's been YEARS, but I *am* actively working on this story still/again after a long hiatus (being the mom of two little ones makes it SLOW going). I do plan to finish this story someday, and it will possibly beat "The Scottish Book" into publicly viewable form.
"So long as a man imagines that he cannot do this or that, so long is he determined not to do it; and consequently so long is it impossible for him that he should do it" – Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677), -Ethics-
2 July 1999, 12:36pm, somewhere on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon, USA
Selene sat in bed, reading as usual, even though it was broad daylight. Outside she could hear the sounds of her mother's groupies gaggling and squawking. Ok, so they were technically Selene's groupies, but her mother was the one who actively encouraged their hanging-on. Selene sighed and concentrated on a bag of Oreo cookies she knew was stored in the pantry, willing them to float through the expansive house toward her waiting hand.
The door was thrown open unexpectedly as Lori, Selene's alleged Personal Care Assistant, barged in while yelling to Selene's mom over her shoulder. "You really should think about having some more renovations done to this place for poor Selene, so she can be more indep-" Lori didn't get to finish that sentence as the bag of Oreo cookies smashed into the side of her forehead, traveling at a speed quite a bit faster than Selene had -consciously- intended.
"Sorry about that, Lori," Selene said, with feigned sheepishness. Lori was the fifth PCA employed by Selene's mother in as many months, and had lasted the longest thus far.
Lori brushed the errant crumbs from her shoulder and dark hair, giving Selene a suspiciously - obviously not believing the contrite attitude at all. "I was just speaking with your mother about making some more adaptations to the house so that it will meet your needs more efficiently."
"I am perfectly capable of meeting my own needs," retorted Selene as she deftly caught the rest of the Oreos. "I've been doing it myself long enough. I really don't understand why Mother keeps insisting on hiring people to do things for me that I'm capable of doing for myself."
"Appearances, Selene, appearances. Even if your special talent is widely known, there are enough people that don't believe it to make it worrisome for your mother. She doesn't need to have the authorities breathing down her neck for not taking proper care of her daughter, especially since she has the money to do so properly and that money is all due to your fame."
"So she has to pay someone to do nothing, all to make the American government folks happy?"
"It doesn't necessarily make them happy, but it keeps them from breathing down her neck too much, especially since, if it weren't for your stepfather, they'd be happy to see you out of the country and let the spectacle that follows you be some other government's problem to deal with."
Selene sighed. She knew that the relationship between her mother and stepfather, while passionate, was hurried into a legal commitment as much for her sake as for theirs. The marriage secured a green card for mother and daughter, and the protection that came along with it. The wedding had only been two years ago, and Selene still had difficultly thinking of Stanley as anything but yet another groupie. "Where are Stanley and Mom anyway?"
"Discussing your public appearances for the next six months."
"So it still doesn't matter that I want to go to school instead of have tutors? I'm sick of not having anyone my own age around."
"There is that one girl, what's her name - daughter of that lady with the tree tattooed to her face.."
"Not really the type of friend I'm looking for - you know she's smoking already? I smelled it on her when her mother dragged her in to visit last week. Almost emptied the contents of my stomach on her…er… 'earthy' shoes. Man, can't these people ever take a bath or something?"
Lori smiled and wrinkled her nose. "Your mother's choice of venues and advertising markets does tend to draw the left-over-hippy group."
"Not like Mom is far off from that herself. I heard her saying something about studying for a High Priestess-ship or something on the phone the other day. What a bunch of horse-pucky."
"Yes, well, back to the subject of the contents of your stomach. You need to eat something with more nutritional value than Oreo cookies. As capable as you are of handling your physical needs without a PCA, I do have certain duties that I intend to keep."
Selene groaned inwardly. Lori's beliefs in areas of personal hygiene might vary from those of the hippy-types, but her ideas about what constituted "nutritional" had a nasty tendency to involve granola and green vegetables with more protein than your average steak. Selene considered herself lucky on the days that no meal contained both at the same time. Fortunately for Selene, her mother chose that moment to interrupt.
"Ah, Selene, it's almost noon. What does it take to drag you away from those books and out into daylight? You're not even dressed yet!"
Selene looked down at her yellow pajama set, the pants covered with cartoonish depictions of ice cream containers and ice cream cones. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing?"
"It's pajamas, Selene, that's what's wrong with it. Wear some proper clothes, you've got more than your fair share of them!"
'Not that I picked a single article of clothing myself,' Selene thought sullenly, but bit her tongue. "They're comfortable, Mom, and fit better than most of my other pants… at least they were made for wearing in a seated position."
"You have plenty of clothes that were custom tailored for you."
Selene winced, the mention of custom-tailoring reminding her of tutors and tours of people gawking at her as she did her levitation tricks at her mother's bidding.
"Fine. Do I have to get dressed up? What are we doing today anyway?"
"I just wanted to spend the day with you, that's all. I thought we could go shopping or something. Jeans and a t-shirt would be fine."
At that, Selene got a mischievous look on her face. She concentrated, and a pair of obviously over-sized jeans and a black t-shirt levitated out of her closet. Selene raised her arms and her body flew a good two feet upwards, hovering at that height over the bed as she pulled the pajama bottoms off.
Lori stiffled a gasp at the sight of Selene's lower limbs. Even after being around Selene for several months, the sight of her disfigurement was still shocking. They hung limp & useless from her hips at odd angles that changed directions more frequently than a rollar coaster , beginning at the upper-most part of her thighs. Lori knew from Selene's medical records that the damage was more extensive than at first apparent, including malformations of the pelvic bones. No mention had ever been made about how Selene had come to be disfigured and Lori loathed to bring it up - every mention of it brought Kathy to immediate tears. All Lori had been able to learn thus far was that it had happened very shortly after Selene's birth, in some rural location outside the United States where medical assisstance was unavalable. By the time medical aid was sought, any possible improvements included long recovery times and extreme pain, which Kathy had been unwilling to subject her infant daughter to and Selene had steadfastly refused since she first learned to speak for herself. The ugly twists in her legs were the reason Selene did not own any shorts, and only ankle-length skirts. Lori looked at the pretty girl with her hair in tidy light auburn pigtails floating before her. She couldn't help wondering what else life might have in store for this tragic and talented child.
Selene got the jeans on, then switching her top for the t-shirt. Her mother grimaced when she saw which particular t-shirt Selene had selected - it had "Keep Staring - I Might Do A Trick" printed on the front.
Kathy rolled her turquoise- colored eyes at her daughter. "Do you have to wear that out in public?"
The same colored eyes glared back at Kathy from Selene's face. "Will you ever let me be a normal kid?"
"You're -not- a normal kid, Selene!"
Lori may not have been employed by the family for very long, but the mother and daughter's confrontations were almost as legendary as Selene's levitation abilities. Lori gave Selene's mother a pointed look, "Kathy, didn't you say you had a few phone calls to make before heading out?"
Kathy shot Lori a dark look, then her face brightened. "Oh, yes! Selene, I forgot to tell you. I've heard back from that agency that trains assistive animals. That was one of the things I was hoping we could deal with today."
"I'm getting a puppy?"
"No, a dog - it's already gone through over a year of training. I need to call them back, but from the message that Cindy took, it sounds like there is a strong candidate dog waiting for you to meet."
"Why is this the first I'm hearing about this? If the dog has to go through so much training, why didn't you tell me about this a year ago?"
"Well, Lori just told me about this agency last month, and after I made a rather generous donation, they were happy to move your name to the top of the list."
"Using our wealth to by-pass yet another system, Mother?"
"Oh, Selene, get off it. Any wealthy family with a disabled member would do it, and they need the money to stay in business for the less fortunate. I'm going to call them back now. Why don't you eat lunch while I call him and then we'll go?"
Selene shrugged and looked up at Lori, then levitated herself again and placed herself gently into the wheelchair waiting at the foot of her bed. As much as she didn't want to admit it to her mother, the idea of getting a dog, at least to keep her company, had great appeal to Selene.
Lori turned to walk out of the room, calling over her shoulder, "I'll have a nice guacamole and pine nut in pita sandwich waiting for you when you get to the kitchen."
Selene pulled a face at the thought, but put her hands to the wheels of her chair. She rolled into the bathroom to brush her hair and teeth.
An hour later Kathy and Selene waited in the formal front room for the dog trainer to show up. The agency had advised Kathy to let the trainer guide the process from the beginning, and so they were waiting on his arrival before heading out to the area kennels to meet Selene's potential dog.
Selene was sitting in the cushioned bay window, reading again, when she heard a car pull up in front of the house. A tall man with dark skin folded himself out of the dilapidated Pinto, dusting off his rather shabby looking suit. He looked terribly out of place in front of the fancy landscaping.
Kathy motioned to Selene, who rolled after her mother toward the expansive entrance hall to greet the dog trainer. Kathy opened the door just as the man reached out to ring the doorbell, startling him.
"You must be Kevin. So pleased to meet you."
"The pleasure is mine, Mrs. Lycurgus, and you must be Selene."
"It's Ms. Lycurgus - I kept my own name when I married Stanley, and please call me Kathy. This is my daughter Selene, and the dog will be for her," Kathy pointed out, rather unnecessarily.
Selene rolled her eyes at her mother and held out her hand to Kevin.
"The van is in the garage, I'll bring it around and then we should be going before it gets too late. Where is this kennel you were talking about?"
"Not far, about 15 miles East of here."
Kathy nodded and headed down the hall toward the kitchen and the entrance to the garage.
Kevin turned toward Selene. "So, will this be your first assistive dog?"
Selene looked up at him in a vaguely suspicious manner. She didn't trust strange adults in general from the experiences she'd had thus far growing up.. They tended to treat her as a freak, or a saint, or a charlatan, or someone to be pitied… or some combination of all of the above. She wasn't used to being spoken to as a human being.
"This will be my first pet."
"You've never even had a pet cat or fish or anything?
"No. Mom is deathly allergic to cats and has never allowed one around me in case I am too, and we travel too much for a pet anyway. I'm rather surprised she wants to get me a dog now, won't it cause more fuss when we need to stay in a hotel?"
"Actually, since your dog is a certified assistive animal, the hotels won't be a problem. Assistive animals are almost always at least superficially welcomed, to avoid having the hotel sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act."
"But I'm not an American."
"Doesn't matter, most places provide blanket coverage instead of waiting to figure out who is a citizen and all the fuss along with that. Your dog should be able to accompany you pretty much anywhere by the end of the summer, if you meet a good match today."
Just then, Kathy pulled up front and honked the horn. The side door opened automatically and the lift lowered in preparation for Selene while Kevin climbed into the passenger seat. Selene settled herself and they were off.
Thirty minutes later, they pulled into the driveway of a sedate-looking house. The illusion of sedation was quickly broken by the sound of yapping dogs.
Selene let herself out of the van and glanced around the corner of the fence at the dogs. She was greeted by nearly a dozen wet noses pointed in her direction and a handful of tongues soon followed from the younger dogs. A few fully-grown dogs hung back from the crowd, eyeing the newcomers but sitting still.
The commotion brought a short, slightly plump woman to the front door. "You must be the Lycurguses. I'm Sandy and I run this kennel. A pleasure to finally meet you. We have a couple of dogs here waiting for a partner to work with, so come on in and let's get started."
Selene noticed a ramp to the right of the door and started wheeling herself up while Kathy and Kevin went up the stairs to the small porch. Sandy stood to the side of the door, holding it open while Selene wheeled herself through.
"I'm so glad you could come today! We have several dogs that are just at the right point to meet their person and enter what we call the team-training segment. I'm sure one will be just right for you. Please, Ms. Lycurgus, Kevin, have a seat while I bring the dogs in."
Sandy disappeared around a corner while Kevin and Sandy settled themselves on the frumpy couch. Selene noticed more than a few tears and stains around the living room, more than likely from younger puppies, and understood why Sandy wouldn't have fancy furniture around.
Sandy soon returned, followed obediently by three dogs. They appeared to be a black lab, a golden retriever, and Siberian husky. Selene couldn't help staring at the husky - she had two different colored eyes, one blue and one gold. A deep wisdom or understanding seemed to radiate from the golden eye, and Selene felt enveloped by it. On impulse, Selene held out a hand, palm up, to the husky. The dog looked to Sandy, who nodded her head in permission, then slowly and carefully walked over to the side of Selene's wheelchair and allowed Selene to scratch her ears. As the girl and canine gazed into each other's eyes everyone in the room felt an immediate sense of warmth, as if the temperature in the room had actually increased by several degrees. The dog laid her head gently into Selene's lap and gave her hand a short lick.
"Well, I do believe that is the quickest that a partnership has ever formed in this room!" exclaimed Sandy. "Selene, you and Celeste seem positively drawn to each other. I think we've found your dog! Of course, you can name her something else if you really want to, though we do recommend keeping the same name to keep from confusing the dog."
Selene looked down at Celeste in contemplation. "I get the feeling that almost nothing could confuse her, but Celeste seems the perfect name for her anyway, so why change it?"
Kevin spoke up at this point. "How much cross-training do you think Celeste will need? She seems like she's already been wheelchair trained, and she is the calmest two year old dog that I've ever seen."
"Actually, she's not quite 18 months. Celeste demonstrated an astounding comprehension of her training from the start, and never had behavioral problems. She is our quickest graduate ever; she mastered all of her obedience commands before she was six months old, and her basic assistance training by nine months. She's already been cross-trained for seizures, depression, wheelchair, limited mobility… she's been a wonder. She's been ready for a placement for a few months now, but never demonstrated any chemistry with previous visitors so she's still here. If I didn't know better, I'd say she's been waiting for you! A few months from now, no one will know you two didn't grow up together."
Celeste looked up into Selene's eyes, her eyes full of doggie love and compassion. Kevin handed Selene the end of a lead and clipped the other end onto Celeste's harness while Kathy settled in with Sandy to finish up the paperwork.
"Why don't I go with you two girls outside and see about getting you more acquainted. I'm curious to know how well she handles a new situation."
At that, Celeste stood at ready and looked back at Selene, then started to walk gently toward the door.
"Oh! Just one moment, I have something else to give you for Celeste!" Sandy said, then got up and went out of the room for a moment. She came back quickly, carrying what looked like a crude pair of handlebars. "My neighbor is a machinist and made this after seeing me working with Celeste. She'll pull you in your wheelchair easily if you attach this to her harness, and there are also loops at the end of the handles here that you can hook around the side of your wheelchair, so she can pull you by herself if you're tired. She's really quite good at it."
Kevin took the handlebars from Sandy and examined them. "Quite a good job, if a little industrial looking."
"I'll fix that," Selene said. "A little paint and ribbon when we get home and it'll look really cool. I want to go outside now."
At that, Celeste headed toward the door again, grabbing a rope on the handle in her teeth and opening it for Selene. Selene wheeled herself out the door with Celeste following at a close but safe distance, watching carefully that her new mistress didn't go down the ramp too quickly. Soon the two were in the front yard and Celeste was looking up at Selene with a little puppyish gleam in her eyes.
"Selene, Celeste will not play unless you give her permission to do so because of her training, but I think she'd really like to play with you right now. There is a ball on the stair side of the porch, tell her 'get ball' and she'll fetch it for you, then tell her 'play catch' and she'll know she's allowed."
Soon, Celeste and Selene were playing happily in the yard, Celeste chasing at top speed after the ball as soon as it left Selene's hand. The adults continued talking for a few more minutes, and then it was time to go. Kathy came out of the house, thanked Sandy for her time, and headed for the van. Celeste returned the ball to Selene and then the end of the lead, indicating that she was ready to get in the van, too. Selene smiled at Celeste, then at the adults, in a way that took Kathy's breath away. Selene hadn't smiled like that in years. Kathy wiped away a tear as she flipped the switch to lower the wheelchair lift for Selene.
Back at home, Kathy's assistant, Cindy, came out of the house as Selene and Kathy were making arrangements for Kevin to return to train Selene in working with Celeste.
"You have a visitor," Cindy said, with a strange look on her face. "He arrived about three minutes ago. I told him I didn't know when to expect you back, but he said he would wait and he expected you'd arrive shortly. Kinda spooked me out when you actually pulled in the drive!"
"I'm not expecting anyone else today. Did he have an appointment?"
"No, I didn't have him in my appointment book either. He said it has to do with Selene's education"
Kathy sighed, hoping it wasn't another social worker, and went in the door. The sight that greeted her assured her it definitely -wasn't- a social worker she was facing, but left her with the same strange look on her face that Cindy had.
"You must be Aikatherine Lycurgus."
"Everyone except my mother calls me Kathy, but yes, I am Aikaterine Lycurgus. And you are?" Kathy was trying not to be too rude to the elderly man facing her, but she was taken aback by his strange dress - for that was what he appeared to be wearing: a long, flowing dress.
"I am Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, but I'm guessing you've never heard of my school."
Kathy shook her head dumbly.
"No, I would have been very surprised if you had, though I thought perhaps Selene's father had told you about it."
Selene chose that moment to wheel herself into the room to investigate the new visitor, Celeste close behind her as she came through the already open door. "You know my father? My biological father?"
Dumbledore chuckled. "No, Selene, I can't say I even know who he is, but given your talents I think he may have been a student at my school."
Kathy looked at Dumbledore with narrowed eyes. "Yes, he had a British accent similar to yours, but I don't even know the last name of Selene's biological father, and I'm not sure the name he did give me wasn't made up. It was a short affair, and he disappeared on me before I could tell him I was pregnant. I was young and foolish, but don't you dare judge me on that in my own home - "
Dumbledore held up a calming hand to stop Kathy. "I'd never dream of doing any such thing. I'm not trying to play matchmaker and reunite old lovers, or even Selene with her biological father if that is something you don't desire. I am here to tell you that Selene is a witch and has a place waiting for her at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
"Selene isn't a witch, she hasn't even met with the High Priestess yet. Lady Gwendolyn said she can't begin her initiation until she's had her first menarche. How did you know about that anyway? It's supposed to be secret to protect the coven!"
Dumbledore chuckled. "I wasn't referring to Wicca, or even modern Paganism. Students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry come from all kinds of religious background, including Christian, Jewish, Pagan, Muslim, and Atheist. It's not a religious school. No, Selene is a true witch, she doesn't need initiation to become one, she was born one as evidenced by her ability to levitate at such an early age. In fact, that skill leads me to believe her biological father must have been a rather powerful wizard, but if he was young and in a new relationship away from home, I'm not surprised he didn't tell a Muggle lover of his powers."
"A -what- lover? Is that some kind of weird British insult?"
"Oh, no, my dear… a Muggle is simply a non-magical person, someone who isn't a witch or a wizard."
"But I -am- a witch! I was initiated last year, I'm about to enter the next circle of our coven and start training for priestesshood."
"Kathy, you may be capable of a great deal of magic, but it is on a different level than what Selene and I, and students at my school, are capable of. You are capable of the magic of belief, while we can do magic at will. Like so," at this, Dumbledore transfigured a puffy recliner into a rather large pig, then into a small tree, a box wrapped as a Christmas package, a squirrel that stood on its hind legs twitching its nose and flicking its tail, a refrigerator, a desk, an elegant Tiffany lamp decorated with grapes, and then back into its true chair form.
Kathy clutched at her chest and all the color drained from her face, her mouth hanging open.
"The magic that Wiccans work is more often on the invisible level, setting events into motion to lead to a desired consequence. It works on the same concept as prayer in other religions. Though there is a bit more overlap with Wiccans and those born witches and wizards in the fields of Divination and such. That Gardner fellow was such a rebel in his Hogwarts days, always insisted that Muggles could be magical if we'd only share our knowledge with them," Dumbledore chuckled again, eyes sparkling. "Really caused quite a stir in the Ministry of Magic with his antics."
Kathy blinked a few times and finally remembered to close her mouth.
"As I was saying, there is a place waiting for Selene at Hogwarts, if she'd like to come and you give your permission. We've already begun renovations to make Hogwarts a more welcoming place for her, as she would be our first student with her particular special needs in more than a thousand years. Would you like to come to Hogwarts, Selene?"
Selene had been sitting near the doorway, contemplating the old wizard in silence this whole time. "Can the other students at Hogwarts levitate like I can?"
"Only a very few witches and wizards in history have been able to levitate themselves without a wand as efficiently as you do, Selene. Some of the older students can levitate themselves for short periods of time, but none of our current students are anywhere near as proficient at this skill as you are."
"So I'll still be a freak, even at a school full of witches and wizards."
"You will stand out, Selene, I won't lie to you. You will be the first student in a wheelchair ever to attend Hogwarts, and one of the most innately talented that we've had in a while, but there are many other very talented students at Hogwarts and each stands out in his or her own way. I am sure you will fit in quite readily."
Selene mulled over his words. "Where is this school anyway?"
"It is located in Scotland."
Kathy sprang into motion at that, quickly reaching her daughter's side. "Scotland? You want me to allow a stranger to take my not-even-eleven-year-old daughter to Scotland? By herself? You must be crazier than you look!"
"She would not be by herself. Celeste will be with her, and you will be welcome to visit any time you please."
"How am I supposed to get to Scotland on a regular basis? And what about Selene's health? How will some strange Scottish doctor know how to deal with her health issues?"
"Madam Pomfrey, who runs our hospital wing, is a very skilled mediwitch. She has seen and treated a wide variety of ailments, magical and Muggle. I'm sure she can handle any extra needs Selene has. And as for visiting, well, we'd arrange to have a Port Key available for your use, so you can visit at any time you please."
"A Port Key?"
"Yes. It's an item enchanted to bring a person from one place to another. I could make one small enough that you can carry it on your person at all times, so you could get to Selene in case of an emergency."
"So you'd call me on the telephone from Scotland if there was an emergency?"
"Well, no. Hogwarts does not have telephones. I, or one of my staff, would Apparate here to tell you if there was an emergency."
"Yes, that's how I got here. It's a magical mode of travel; we disappear from one place and reappear in another. Usually not over such long distances, but a few members of the staff are able to make it from the village near Hogwarts out here with just a few stops in between, and all of the faculty members are able to Apparate across the Atlantic if they have to. I am probably the only wizard capable of making this long of a trip without stopping along the way, and even I didn't risk it on the first try, since I'd never been here before and didn't want to risk appearing in the middle of a wall. I stopped in Seattle first and took a taxicab. Next time I can come here directly though."
"So, can I Apparate home to see Mom if I get homesick?"
"I'm sorry, Selene, but we do not allow underage witches and wizards to Apparate, lest you splinch yourselves out in the middle of nowhere or in front of a Muggle. You'll be eligible for your Apparition license when you turn 17."
"Splinch?" Kathy and Selene asked at the same time.
"Very unpleasant, I'd rather not talk about it right now. So, Selene, would you like to come to Hogwarts?"
Kathy saw the light in Selene's eyes and let out a sniffle, then looked away. "We've never been apart for more than a few days before," she said mournfully.
"Mother, I'll be fine. And like Mr. Dumbledore said, you can come visit any time you'd like…"
"Most of the students call me Professor Dumbledore, Selene, just to avoid confusion. Kathy, if it would make you more comfortable, I'd be happy to give you a personal tour of Hogwarts today, and you can see the renovations that we're undertaking for Selene's benefit."
"Please, Mom? I've always wanted to go to school, and this way you won't have to worry about my making trouble with my levitating, since they can do it too!"
"Well, what about Lori? Who will be your personal care assistant? I'm not sure she'll want to relocate all the way to Scotland!"
"You know I don't really need one, Mom, I'll be fine."
"Yes, and Celeste will be able to accompany her - many students bring pets with them to Hogwarts, and though others do not come to classes I'm sure Celeste will be fine. We can also assign a house-elf to attend to Selene's needs and be always at the ready for her call, or even Celeste's bark."
Kathy saw the pleading look in her daughter's face and sighed. "I guess a tour wouldn't hurt anything, but I'm not making up my mind until after I see this place."
"Splendid! I've brought a Port Key with me, in case you felt just as this. Hold out a hand, Selene hold onto your wheelchair with the other hand, Celeste give your paw, and we'll be off as soon as I give the password," Dumbledore exclaimed as he pulled a beaten up Frisbee out of his robes and held it at waist height. Kathy and Selene touched it tentatively and Celeste put her paw on top of it. "Cadbury Cream Eggs!"
Kathy and Selene both dropped their jaws in surprise as they felt a strange jerk behind their belly buttons and disappeared.