Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all of its appendages are copyright to J.K. Rowling and Warner Brothers. Stargate SG-1/A are copyright to MGM Studios, Gekko, and its cast and crew. References to other fandoms are absolutely intentional.
Inquisitive Minds Want to Know
They met roughly a kilometer away from the Stargate, weaponless and radios off at Kolya's insistence. The commander was already waiting when Aiden arrived with Marcus, Carson, and Sora in tow. Kolya looked as surly and imposing as ever, save for his left arm, which was bound securely in place. If he was in pain, there was no sign of it in his battle-hardened face, which retained its usual eerily detached look.
He was quick to continue his criticism of Aiden, playing on his insecurity. "We agreed that we would only bring three people," he complained.
"When you leave, you'll be the one with four people," Aiden answered. The two parties faced off.
"So." Kolya's coal-black eyes bored into Aiden's. "In exchange for Sora, what information do you want?"
"Dr. Weir and a number of others were involved in a gate accident. I want to know if they wound up on your world, or anywhere your people are aware of, and if so, whether you're willing to send them home. That's all."
"Hmm." Kolya broke ranks and started to casually pace. "And what makes you think the Genii are aware of their whereabouts?"
"Nothing. I'm exploring every possible avenue."
"Is that so? You're losing a rather valuable hostage over the mere possibility that the Genii have what you need to know. Even if we did know, how can you be so sure we'd be inclined to help you?"
Kolya was fundamentally right; this was one thing Aiden had resigned himself into accepting before leaving to meet with him. "I'm willing to do this anyway in the interest of good relations. Her family and friends can appreciate our position. They want their loved one back, and we want ours. Besides, Dr. Weir has always believed-"
"As you said in our last conversation, Lieutenant, Dr. Weir is not in charge now. You are. Tell me, what do you want?
Kolya smirked. "Weir's philosophy sounds wrong coming from you. You're not a diplomat, you're a man of action. You don't want to pursue an alliance with us. We've betrayed you, attacked your base! Why follow her policies?"
Aiden could hear his pulse throb loudly in his ears as guilt began to seep into his mind. He knew what he didn't want; he didn't want to deal with the Genii. But what choice did he have? Either way, he felt dirty. He felt like he was betraying his friends for thinking this way.
Carson answered before Aiden could get past his guilty feelings. "Stop talking as though she's dead, unless you plan on volunteering some information!"
It was precisely what Aiden needed to hear. "Stop trying to play me. I want to find my friends, okay? So let's cut to the chase, Commander. Do you have any verifiable information as to their whereabouts? Are they on your planet?"
Kolya's smile vanished as he reverted to his mask. "The Genii have not encountered any of your people since the Storm, and none of them are on our planet" he replied, "now hand Sora over."
Nothing. It was somehow worse than knowing they were being held captive, but the Genii had kept their meager side of the bargain, and he was not about to go back on his out of spite. Aiden reached for the cuffs binding Sora and released them, but caught her wrist before she could join her former commander.
"How do you intend to let us verify this?" he asked.
Kolya stepped in front of Aiden and seized his hand, squeezing hard. Marcus and Carson were at his side within seconds to intervene, but not before the pressure on his hand forced Aiden to release Sora's. She stared at it, startled, before looking to Kolya for an explanation.
"That," the Genii said, taking a few steps back to rejoin the escort, "was not part of the bargain."
"What? Now just you hold on a second!" Carson pointed a finger at Kolya. He was practically shaking with anger, something that Aiden found downright shocking. He'd never seen the doctor so upset.
Kolya switched on his radio and murmured something to his companions before answering. "Doctor, surely you cannot expect me to give your people leave to come to our planet and do as they please."
"Aye, but I would at least expect..."
As Carson argued his case, Marcus stepped close enough to Aiden to whisper in his ear without the others hearing what he was saying.
"Sir, we've gotta go. Grodin just dialed here. He says we need to get back to Atlantis ASAP."
Aiden tilted his head slightly to one side so he could look at his fellow Lieutenant. "You didn't turn off your radio?"
Marcus smirked. "I don't take orders from enemy commanders, sir."
"Good point. What's the emergency?"
"I don't know, but it can't be good if he called us in the middle of this."
"Right." So much for resolving this now. It figures, he thought before raising his voice. "Doc! Forget it. We don't have time for his crap. Let's go."
"A wise choice, Lieutenant," Kolya said.
As he adjusted his cap and turned his radio back on, Aiden glared at him. "This isn't over, Kolya. Tell your people that."
He whirled around and stormed off without waiting to see if Carson and Marcus were following. Once he was out of sight of the Genii, he picked up the nearest rock and threw it as far as his frustration would take it.
"Go," Kolya said gruffly to his escort once Ford and his team were gone. The two men set off for the gate at a brisk pace, leaving Kolya and Sora alone.
Sora did try to fall into step behind them after briefly hesitating, but the commander slapped his free fist on her shoulder. "You do not have a warm welcome waiting for you," he said, "you disobeyed my orders and will have to face your punishment."
She looked away from the pair of Genii soldiers ahead that were slowly getting smaller in the distance. Her gaze was drawn, oddly enough in her opinion, to her hand- the one that Ford had held onto. "I made my choice. I do not expect anything different."
"Indeed. And now, I'm sure the choice to absolve yourself of any wrongdoing is the one you want to make."
Sora felt like her heart was stopping. She couldn't breathe. A pardon? But at what cost?
"What must I do?"
"Return to Atlantis with Ford and the others. Tell them the Genii, not I, send you as collateral until they realize that we do not have Dr. Weir or whoever else is missing."
He squeezed her shoulder tighter.
"Earn their trust. Get the city's command codes. Finish what we started. Or else you will face your penalty, and I will make sure it's the execution block for you."
So that was it. If she completed the mission, she was free of her death sentence. If she refused or failed, she was a good as dead. A soldier who failed to carry out an order more than once was as worthless and despicable as a Wraith to the Genii. Her people would make no exception for her.
"Go," Kolya repeated after she continued to be unresponsive, "Senil and Artrus are waiting to bring you to Ford."
There was no point debating the subject. Kolya released her, and she set off at a sprint, trying hard not to think too much about what she had to do. That could wait.
Sora quickly joined her countrymen and caught up to Ford's group just as they were waiting for the wormhole to stablilise.
"Wait!" Artrus called at the top of his lungs.
Sora jogged up to him and was happy to have to catch her breath, as it gave her time to decide what to say. "The others- not Kolya – made me come to surrender to you."
"Surrender?" Carson asked.
Senil nodded as he and Artrus arrived a few steps behind. "Commander Kolya was telling the truth when he said we don't know where Weir is. He may not want relations with Atlantis, but that's not his decision."
He gestured to Sora, taking her wrist and offering it to Ford. "She's your prisoner until you realize that."
Aiden just stared at her. Sora could tell he wasn't buying it. "And you're okay with that?" he asked.
"What do you think?" she replied sourly, hoping her discontent would be enough to convince them.
He continued to stare at her as if she'd just grown another set of ears before sighing in frustration. "We don't have time for this." He grabbed the handcuffs from Marcus and quickly cuffed her arms behind her. "If you want to stay locked up in a cell, that's fine by me. I'll figure out what this is really about later!"
"The Genii appreciate your honesty," said Artrus, inclining his head a little.
"Hah! That's rich coming from you," Aiden answered as he pushed Sora on ahead through the wormhole. She looked back at her comrades just before stepping into the event horizon. The look of warning they gave her was unmistakable.
On the other side, Atlantis was filled with frenzied activity. People were rushing in every direction or clustered together in anxious-looking groups.
Aiden handed Sora off to the nearest stationary officer. "Please escort Sora back to her cell," he said as he scanned the room, looking for someone.
"Peter!" he called once he found who he was looking for, "what's going on?"
Grodin practically flew down the stairs to meet Aiden. "We just got long range sensors up and running."
"That's it? What's the emergency?"
The soldier now escorting her tugged at her arm. "If you'll come with me, ma'am?"
Reluctantly, Sora obeyed, as much as she wanted to stay and hear what was going on. What emergency?
As she was forced out of earshot, Grodin answered the question. "We've detected a Wraith Hive ship on an intercept course. It'll be here within two weeks."
John smoothed down the front of his brand new robe. It was a similar shade of grey to his usual uniform, and he was sure it was five sizes too big despite Dumbledore's assurances that the sizing was quite correct.
"Is it supposed to flow everywhere like this?" he asked, rolling his sleeves up to expose his arms while they walked through what had to be the strangest set of staircases he had ever seen in his life. Not only was everything old, ornate, and complicated, but everything, from the stairs to the people in the paintings, was moving.
Elizabeth, clad in a similar robe made of soft red fabric, pulled his sleeves back to their original level. "You look fine!" Her broken arm was now in perfect working order and only a little sore (if she had told John the truth), and the only sign that she had recently been injured was a reddish tinge to the skin where her injuries had been.
"She's right! Never saw such a handsome silhouette before!" an ancient-looking witch in a painting said cheerfully. Both Elizabeth and John briefly froze in place. They still weren't used to all the oddities.
Dumbledore was leading the way through the castle to the 'Great Hall', where he said they could eat before adjourning to his office to sort out the issues in smuggling them out of the wizarding world, and whatever clues about its exact connection to the Stargate that could be found. Teyla, wearing a green robe of the same design as Elizabeth's, looked the most comfortable in the long, flowing clothing that Hogwarts' headmaster insisted they wear. McKay kept lifting the front of his black robe like a skirt in order to keep from stepping on it.
"I can't believe we have to wear these!" he groaned.
"Come on, McKay," John teased, "we're undercover. Anthropologists do this all the time."
"I'm not an anthropologist. I'm a theoretical physicist!"
"You would do best not to mention that in the Hall," Dumbledore reminded him, "Remember, your best defense now is to remain hidden in the open. If I keep you away from the students, they will know something very strange is going on. As long as you all keep appearances and not say things like 'theoretical astrophysicist', they will be more likely to adapt to your presence without questioning my explanation and less likely to mention anything suspicious to their families."
"Speaking of disguises and all that, should we have fake names or something?" John asked as he skipped a particular step after seeing Dumbledore do so. McKay failed to notice and tripped.
"Seeing as most of you are strangers to the public eye, I don't believe that will be necessary save for you, Doctor," he answered, looking at Elizabeth, "your name might be familiar to some parents. May I suggest you pretend that your surname is Swan?"
"Elizabeth Swan?" Elizabeth repeated.
John laughed, liking the old man better each minute. "I didn't take you for a movie fan, Professor. But isn't that a tad obvious?"
Dumbledore led them down the final stretch of hallway and up the last set of stairs to an impossibly tall pair of double doors, where he stopped and turned around.
"Is that name really used in a film? That's interesting." His blue eyes twinkled with amusement before he gave them all a stern look.
"Try not to act so surprised at what you see. You must appear to be one of us. Most of the people in that room are not adults, but they are far more perceptive than we give them credit for."
With that, he threw the doors open and walked purposely down the center of the hall. John and the others followed, past the four long tables where all the students were sitting, to the raised table at the end. Four places were set on the right side of the centre, where Dumbledore sat down.
He knew he wasn't supposed to act shocked by anything in the room, but John couldn't help but gape at everything, from the plain black robes the students were wearing, to the missing ceiling (did the walls just melt away?), to the line of teachers at the table where they were all about to sit. He nodded to the adults politely and helped Elizabeth to her seat before taking his own.
"We have with us today," Dumbledore said, his voice projecting throughout the room, which fell silent as he spoke, "a party of witches and wizards from the United States, whose faulty Portkey accidentally brought them to the Forbidden Forest last night instead of their destination. I trust that you will all treat Mr. Sheppard, Miss Swan, Mr. McKay, and Miss Emmagan with the respect you would give to your own teachers, and make them feel welcome in our school, where they will be staying until arrangements are made for their departure."
The headmaster sat down, and John scanned the room for reactions as conversations picked up again. Everyone was definitely curious about the strange Americans, but there were was only a few suspicious looks scattered across the four tables, particularly from the sallow-faced young man with hair so blond that it was white. That must be Draco Malfoy. He noticed Harry and his friends at the table underneath the gold and red banner, when Harry caught his eye, the kid grinned.
"Aren't you going to eat, John?" Elizabeth asked as casually as she could. It was only then that John looked back at the table and realized that it was now laden with all sorts of breakfast food to choose from: eggs, toast, potatoes, bacon, and-
"This coffee is great!" McKay exclaimed before settling down to eat his very large serving of food. Teyla seemed to stick to the fruit.
John laughed and started to help himself. He spent as much time eating as possible, as this meant less time talking and answering delicate questions.For the next half hour, the four of them worked together to maintain the charade, but it wasn't as hard as John had expected. He suspected that Dumbledore had somehow convinced his staff not to ask too many questions. He eventually sneaked a glance at his watch and smiled. Only fifteen more minutes before classes started and most of the prying eyes left.
"I take it you didn't run into the Centaur herd when your Portkey dropped you in the forest?" a professor who was as short as a midget asked him.
"...No," he replied.
"I thought so, or you wouldn't be here in one piece! You're very lucky, they don't tolerate trespassers on their land."
John relaxed and grinned, happy that he had answered the question passably. "I thought so too."
He was filling up his third serving of breakfast (the eggs and bacon were just too damn good), when the double doors flew open with a loud bang, startling the students closest to them and putting John on edge.
A squat woman wearing a pastel-pink cloak with short, curly, and overly coiffed hair charged up the Hall towards the table. "Dumbledore!" she yelled in a high-pitch voice. As she got closer, John couldn't help but notice her pug nose and overly matronly attire.
Unsure of what to make of this new arrival, he looked at Harry for some sort of queue. Harry met his eyes and gave him a panicked look, shaking his head. Not good! he mouthed.
John glanced at Teyla and McKay, who were schooling their faces into curious indifference, and then to Dumbledore, looking past Elizabeth's neutral expression. Hers matched Dumbledore's the most as he rose from his seat to greet the woman.
"Dolores, what a pleasant surprise. Would you like to join us for breakfast?"