The Sugar Quill
Author: Persephone_Kore and Alan Sauer  Story: The Gift of the Magus  Chapter: Chapter 1/4: Red, Green, and Blue
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The Gift of the Magus 1

Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction based on the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling. No undue claim nor material profit is intended.

Authors' note: As usual, this is the next installment of the Time's Riddle series. Quick review for new readers -- alternate timeline diverging after Chamber of Secrets. Voldemort came back to life prematurely but was replaced by an illusion of twelve-year-old Tom Riddle that turned out to be real enough to want to be THE real one and accept Harry's help to this end. This Tom and Ginny have become friends, largely out of self defence since Snape made them sit together in Potions. Due to the arrival of the boa constrictor Harry let out of the zoo, Sirius was captured when he sneaked into Gryffindor Tower, and the truth of the matter came out. This should all make much more sense now, although frankly, we still think you should probably read the earlier ones. We, however, are biased.

The Gift of the Magus
by Alan Sauer
and Persephone
Chapter 1

There were very few people in the library as the Christmas holidays approached, and fewer books than usual. Hermione Granger had checked out enough books to make a stack or two approximately her own height and withdrawn in their company into Gryffindor tower. Ginny had conveyed this interesting image to Tom, and in between reading a herbal whose scented pages seemed to have wilted at some point, they speculated as to whether it had been accomplished via several trips, illicit use of magic in the corridors, or the simple expedient of recruiting two friends to divide the load.

A soft hiss slithered across the library and made Tom look up and Ginny nearly upset her ink.

Tom reached over and clapped the ink-bottle hastily and firmly upright on the table, arching an eyebrow at Harry across the library. "That," he whispered when Harry was close enough, "wasn't even words!"

"Oops." Harry shrugged and settled into an extra chair in an attitude that suggested he was about to take off into the air without benefit of a broomstick. "I have a question."

"Laudable state of being, in a school." Tom grinned. "What is it?"

"Sirius found a house."

Tom blinked. "That isn't a question."

"Er, no. The question was if you'd like to come spend the Christmas holidays there. Both of you," Harry added hastily.

"That would be great! I'd been planning to haunt the library most of the time. You're asking Ron and Hermione as well, I assume." Tom glanced over at Ginny, who looked rather like someone had hit her between the eyes with The Monster Book of Monsters. "Ginny?" he prompted, stifling a grin. "Are you going to come?"

"I already asked them," Harry explained, his own eyes flicking to Ginny before he gestured broadly in the probable direction of the tower. "And the boa. It's you second-years I had to come hunting."

"Does Sirius have enough rolls, then? And we can't have been that hard to find."

"I'd like to come too, yes," Ginny finally managed to reply. "Thank you very much."

"Good, and no, I found you pretty quick. And I think we can manage the rolls."

"Should be fun, then. Thanks for the invitation."

"You're welcome. You might want to look out though." Harry bounced back to his feet and added just before he left, "From the stories, Sirius used to be a lot like the twins."

Ginny looked at Tom and put up her eyebrows. "These are obviously different stories."

"Well, I think the ones Sirius tells himself are probably likely to be pretty different from the ones the Ministry told about him, yes," Tom said, grinning. "You should get along pretty well, though, if he's right, being a combat veteran and all."

She laughed. "At least there's only one of him!"

"True." He cocked his head. "Took you kind of a long time to decide, though. Did you want to go home instead?"

She blushed faintly. "No, I was just startled."

"Well, I'd say he's really looking forward to having a home he can invite friends to.. And you've known him longer than I have, so it's no surprise he'd invite you when he did me."

"Oh... I think he talks with you more, really. But it's very nice of him."

"Well, he did specifically invite both of us." Tom smiled a bit wistfully. "I think he's really excited to have a home."

Ginny nodded with a quietly sympathetic smile of her own; they both knew Tom was not exactly likely to have old guardians appearing out of odd locations at this point. "I'm sure he is. Surprised, too, I think."

"Considering that six weeks or so when he thought Sirius was trying to kill him, you mean? And to think, I thought I had an eventful school year."

"...You are an event."

"Yes, for all the wrong reasons." Tom shook his head. "Never mind me. I should be happy for him. I am."

"Not all the wrong reasons." Ginny wrapped a hand firmly around his wrist. "You decided not to be like that and you won."

"I know. I'm just being crabby for no good reason, that's all. Christmas at Harry's will be nice."

"And I still need to owl Mum and Dad about this summer -- I suppose we won't have Harry at the same time, then." Ginny nibbled her lower lip and offered, "I think you're a very good event."

"Thanks. For both. And he'll probably still be over a lot, it's not like Sirius is going to keep him locked up."

"Well, no." Ginny shook her head. "When the twins went to get him at the start of last year, they had to pull bars out of the window."

"Ugh. What are they so afraid of?"

She shrugged helplessly. "I don't know."

"Well, if anything, all he's got to worry about now is being spoiled out of his mind." Tom shook his head. "I don't think I've ever seen him that... bouncy."

"Neither had I."

Tom grinned slightly. "Well, I don't imagine I'll be imposing on him too much, really, if he's that gleeful about it."

Ginny looked up at him again sharply, the tiniest of lines drawn between her eyebrows. "You won't be imposing on us either, if that's what you're thinking."

"Well, I thought I'd help out with the chores and things, to work my way."

Her mouth opened for a moment before any sound came out. "Well, we all do that, yes. Harry would probably tell you this eventually, but a word of advice -- don't bother feeling sorry for the gnomes." Tom blinked at her as she hesitated a moment before continuing, "But I didn't mean for you to think of it as if you had to -- to pay for it that way." She flushed again. "If that's what you meant."

"Your mum and dad should get something for keeping me fed and housed all summer."

"Listen." Ginny glanced around the library and lowered her voice a bit further. "If you've been hearing from Malfoy he exaggerates and you know his views are skewed." She caught her lip with her teeth briefly before adding, "And if you've heard Ron complain, well, I think he's especially sensitive about hand-me-downs because he gets them next to last and he's taller than everybody. We don't get to be all that extravagant very often, but that doesn't mean we aren't all right, and considering how many of us there are, one more is not a problem. I want you to come, all right? You're my friend, and I'm sure they'll say yes, and you'll help out but it'll be just like all the rest of us do."

"I know all that. Really." Tom sighed. "It just feels... weird, is all."

"Well, I feel very silly now," Ginny muttered, but she did sit back and relax slightly. "I suppose it would. And I have been slow owling them because working out exactly how to ask, after some of my letters earlier, is a little odd. But just... don't worry. Really." She grinned at him. "Once we get to know you it all works out."

"I figured it was something like that. And I hope you're right."

"I am." She smiled again, then looked at the time. "Oh -- I'm going to have to go. I promised Colin an extra pair of hands with some new photography potions he wanted to try. Supposedly these don't smell when they're brewing."

"Brilliant. Go help him, the world needs you."

Ginny laughed and picked up her things. "I'll see you later."

She hurried from the library, leaving him alone to think.

Tom waited until she was well out of sight, then hauled his bag out from under the table. It was one thing to have ineptly-manufactured homemade Christmas presents for people when you didn't have to watch them pretend they weren't... well, things improperly transfigured out of bits of stuff no one would miss.

It was quite another when you'd been invited to a friend's brand new house to spend Christmas with his brand new family. Unfortunately, this didn't change the essential fact that he'd been brought forward in time (or recreated, whichever explanation fit best) with two Knuts and a scuffed Muggle penny in his pockets.

In short, he had to learn fifth-year Transfiguration before the holidays.

He set a piece of owl-down on the table, concentrated very hard, and muttered a quick incantation--and then sighed when, halfway toward looking like a proper quill, it exploded in a small burst of fluff. This was going to be a very long two weeks.

It was a very long two hours he spent working on it before dinner, undisturbed the entire time and -- he thought -- unremarked.

He never noticed when his old Transfiguration professor stood and watched him in silence for several minutes, and no motion caught his eye when Dumbledore turned in a swirl of bright robes and walked away with purposeful steps, deep in thought.

*****

Review responses for "Grim Tidings" chapter 4:

To Ozma: I've always thought it lessens the impact of the story _not_ to give Peter his proper place among his friends--if he was always evil or useless, then his betrayal doesn't _matter,_ as it so clearly does to Sirius and Remus in the Shack.

And yeah, we're shamelessly taking the opportunity to improve people's lives. :)--Alan

Ozma: Thank you so much. Considering we've just sent him to Azkaban, acknowledging a little of Peter's depth seemed the least we could do. I'm glad you were moved... and yes, exploring choices and opportunities that were lost in canon (especially Tom -- of course, when we wrote the original version of this, we didn't know Sirius and Harry wouldn't really have their chance...) is much of the appeal of this AU for us as well. We may bring 12 Grimmauld Place into things properly later on, but you're absolutely right -- knowing it exists doesn't change in the least the fact that Sirius isn't going to spend Christmas there if he doesn't have to. The James and Lily backstory is Alan's brainchild, and I admired it very much too. --PK

To Katcin Lee: Well, we're glad you decided to give us a second chance. :) The opportunity to present a sympathetic portrait of Slytherin House was too much to resist.

Hufflepuffs are scheduled for Tom's third year, once we get there--so, yes, we are in fact continuing the series. ;)--Alan

Katcin Lee: Thank you very much for giving the series a second chance! I'm afraid "Who We Are" was my first HP fanfic and in some ways it shows; I may yet figure out a way to fix some of that, but I'm very glad you're enjoying the stories now. We still have quite a bit left that we want to do in the series, actually, including some of our favorites among the scenes we, ah, jumped ahead to -- things have just been more hectic than usual for one or the other of us for a few months. We're having a good time with House differences and interactions -- and we have Plans for Hufflepuff. *grins* --PK

GD: Thank you, and the next installment is about Christmas. NOT in the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. Among other things. :) --PK

To GD: Thanks. :) And . . . yeah, like PK said, this is Christmas. With goblins. You'll see. ;)--Alan

amulder: *giggles* You'll still tell us what you think about them, won't you? We enjoy your reviews. Working on the writing-more bit. Did you know the Quibbler has conspiracy theories about the Zodiac?--PK

To amulder: Well, that's the kind of error we don't mind making. :)

We have had some ideas regarding cats and Parseltongue, but that's an entirely different AU.--Alan

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