the girl out of time

Elizabeth Banner, sixteen years of age, has been very much in love with the Harry Potter books for as long as she can remember. A visit with a mysterious man makes her appear in the Harry Potter universe with one seemingly simple task: fix what was broken. Upon arriving at Hogwarts, however, she finds herself swept up in the comings-and-goings of the life of a student with magic, which includes seeing snow leopards around the school, trying to fake it till she makes it in Potions, and trying not to set things on fire in her Alchemy class.

With the danger of Lord Voldemort looming on the horizon and the pressure of learning enough magic to face off against Death Eaters, Elizabeth is finding it difficult to fix things as the mysterious man instructed her to do. After all, how is a person supposed to fix things in a world she was never meant to exist in?

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"Elizabeth! Time for dinner!"

I sighed, trying to push down the annoyance I felt in my godmother interrupting my peace. I'd just been getting to an especially good part, too. In exasperation, I shouted back, "What is it?"

"Mashed potatoes and gravy!" came the yelled reply.

"No, thank you!" I retorted, going back to my book. I was lying stretched out across my bed, still in my pajamas even though it was well past four in the afternoon. I had done nothing but read all day, and I saw that as time well-spent. After all, I was reading my absolute favorite book series, Harry Potter.  The one I was on now, the Half-Blood Prince, was undoubtedly one of my favorites. The Goblet of Fire was my favorite, but this one was a close second.

"Elizabeth Banner, you get down here right now!" shouted her godmother. "You will eat dinner with us!"

"No, thank you!" I repeated, not taking my eyes off the book. Harry had just returned to Hogwarts and now things were going to be getting intense.

"Get down here or so help me...!"

I rolled onto my back, holding the book above me.  "Fine!  Give me a minute, would you?!"  I read another paragraph and tucked a bookmark in, heaving a great sigh.  I would rather be anywhere but here right now. It was why I constantly read, to escape my reality in favor of a fictional world. I stood up, scratching my head, and walked toward my bedroom door.

And the world I desired most to be in was the wizarding one, Hogwarts. More than anything, I just wanted to live the experience, perform magic, become friends with Harry and the others and pretend to hate Snape even though my heart had softened for him after reading the seventh book.

I opened my door and did not find the hallway leading downstairs to where my godparents were waiting.

"What the..."

I closed my door, opened it again, and found the same scene.

Something very strange was happening.

I was standing next to an old, ancient door that was not the exterior of my bedroom door. In front of me was a long, dark hallway lit by torches. The stone floor was wet and I could see water dripping from the walls. Eventually, I worked up the guts to step onto the cold floor and out of my warm, welcoming bedroom. I left the door open behind me for a quick escape if needed.

"Elizabeth..."

I started, breaking out in a nervous sweat. Who had that been? Who else was in this place? I walked slowly to the end of the dark hall, which opened into a wider, lighter area. A dark figure stood at the end of the room, motionless.

"Who's there?" I called, shivering in my pajamas. God, this was embarrassing. No, what was I thinking? Wandering out of my bedroom into a strange place? It was almost like magic.

The figure stepped into the light of the torches. "Hello, Eliza."

He was tall, standing straight and with confidence. He had pale hair and gray eyes that looked down at me warmly, and a smile that lit up his whole face as if he were looking at someone he loved. He was young, but still older than me. Maybe in his early or even late twenties.

"How do you know my name?" I asked, a little shakily. "And who are you?"

He continued smiling. "I've known your name for years, Eliza, and I'm grateful to have known it so long."  He looked down, scuffing his black shoes against the pavement. "Unfortunately, I can't tell you who I am or it'll ruin everything. You know my name, you just don't know I belong to it."

"Uh, thank you, Gandalf," I muttered. "Really, tell me what's going on here."

"I have a task for you," he said, tapping his foot. "It's very important. Things will not be the same around here if you don't fulfill this task. In fact, this whole world could be doomed if you don't fix things."

"What world?" I demanded. "Where am I, exactly?"

"Beneath Diagon Alley," he answered. "I have a task for you: fix what is broken."  As he spoke, he began to fade. I could see the stone walls behind him. "Fix him, Eliza."  And then he abruptly disappeared altogether, leaving me feeling lightheaded.

Had I collapsed on my bedroom floor before going down to dinner? Clearly, that had to be the case. Plus, I hadn't eaten all day, anyway. I moved back through the dark hall and looked up, expecting to see my bedroom in front of me.

The hall was empty, and there was no door at the end of it. I stared for a good long minute before running down and slamming my fists on the hard stone. "Betsy!  Betsy, can you hear me!"

But my godmother didn't come and I could hear nothing but my racing heartbeat and short, frantic breaths. Was this really a dream? I pinched my arm, but I felt normal after a flash of pain. Nothing changed, and I slumped against the damp wall.

I was doomed.

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