The Sugar Quill
Author: Nundu (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: It's a Wonderful Life  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

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I don’t own the world of Harry Potter.  Jo Rowling has that distinct pleasure.  I just love hanging out in it!

As always, thanks so much to Felina Black for her support and enthusiasm as my wonderful beta!

 

 

 

 

It’s A Wonderful Life

 

 

The snow outside the window of the tower room had increased.  The wind was driving the frozen flakes against the pane.  A draught slipped around the frame, chilling the only occupant of the room.  Harry sat on his bed, turning the handle of the knife Sirius had given him over and over in his hand, staring at it.  Sirius had only given him three gifts, and he had squandered them all.

 

The Firebolt, the broom he had coveted for so long, he had lost because his temper had got the best of him and he had succumbed to the stupid taunts of Malfoy.

 

The mirror he had simply forgotten about.  How could he have forgotten about one of the few gifts his godfather had bestowed?

 

The knife he had wasted on a door, a door that was just one more tantalising falsehood that fateful night.

 

That night. 

 

The night his naivete had cost him his dearest friend, his brother, his father.  That is what Sirius had become.  He was Harry’s family.  He was what Harry held on to.  He was Harry’s reason for existence.  And now he was gone.  One more to the list. 

 

How many people had suffered because he, Harry, was alive?  His mother, his father and twelve Muggles had died.  Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny and Luna had all suffered for claiming his friendship.  Mr and Mrs Weasley had lost a son because they had stood by Harry.  Sirius had paid the ultimate price while running to rescue Harry from his own stupidity.  It had become almost a catechism, repeated nightly since the failed rescue.  How many more would be added to the list before the end?  So many lives wasted on him.  He pummelled his pillow, his jaw locked in anger as a hard fought tear slipped silently down his face.

 

“I DON’T WANT TO BE HUMAN,” he had railed at Dumbledore.  He had not been exaggerating.  He wanted it all to end.

 

I wish the pain would go away. 

 

I wish all this had never happened.

 

I wish I’d never been born.

 

“Do you, Harry?”

 

Harry’s head jerked up.  There, sitting straddle backwards on a chair, arms draped over the back, with his chin in his hand, looking at Harry with a glint of amusement in his grey eyes….

 

“Sirius!”

 

“You wish you’d never been born?” he parroted back quizzically.

 

“You’re a dream.  You’re not real.  You’re dead!”  Harry gasped.

 

“Very true.”

 

Harry scrubbed the scar on his forehead with his fist.  There wasn’t the slightest tingle to suggest that Voldemort was once again tormenting him with this vision.  This vision of the one person he wanted more than anyone else.

 

“I don’t understand.”

 

“Don’t you, Harry?  I’m here to help you.”

 

“Defeat Voldemort?”

 

“No, something a lot harder.  You’ve just been granted your wish.”

 

“What wish?  That you never died?” Harry leaned forward, eyes wide with excitement.

 

“No,” Sirius chuckled, “Nothing that simple either.  Come on, we don’t have long.  It’s almost Christmas.”  Swinging his leg carelessly over the chair, he stood and reached out to Harry.  As his hand touched Harry’s shoulder, Harry felt himself drawn into a vortex of colour and sound.

 

Harry blinked at finding himself standing on Privet Drive, at the front gate of number four.  A wreath hung on the door and a single string of lights ran along the roofline.

 

“What are we doing here?”  Harry asked with a growl of impatience.

 

Sirius grinned at his obvious aggravation. “Visiting some old friends,” he said pointing at the car that had pulled into the drive.  Harry’s Aunt Petunia was getting out of the car.  There was something different about her.  It took Harry a moment to realise it was the expression on her face.  It wasn’t pinched.  Her face was relaxed and she had a genuine smile on her lips.  Her hair was not the shellacked blonde helmet he was used to, but rather fell in soft waves around her face.  He could see a resemblance he had never noticed before between her and photos he had of his mother.

 

As his cousin Dudley climbed from the back seat, Harry dropped his jaw.  Obviously the diet and boxing was taking effect.  Dudley was no pixie, but he wasn’t of the gigantic proportions he had attained last summer either.  The two of them disappeared into the house, chattering happily about the contents of the bag Dudley was carrying from a bookstore.

 

Harry turned to look at Sirius.  “What has happened?  They look so…so…”

 

“Normal?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well, there hasn’t been a threat hanging over their heads for fifteen years.  No fear of someone coming after them to get to you.  No fear of magic being discovered by the neighbours.  Just an ordinary, suburban life, like anyone else on this street.

 

“A threat.  They think Voldemort would just stroll down the street and blast them?”

 

“When you lived there, yes.  After all, that’s what happened to your parents.  Your Aunt Petunia was well aware of the consequences of taking you in, but she did it anyway, because she loved her sister.”

 

“She sure had a funny way of showing it to me.”  Harry paused.  “But you said there hasn’t been a threat.  What happened?  Are my parents still alive?” Harry asked hopefully.

 

“No.  After hearing the bit of the prophecy, his favourite little spy told him that both James and Lily and Alice and Frank were due to have babies in the end of July.  Voldemort made a personal visit to both homes a week or so before you were due.  No one survived.  You and Neville were never born.”

 

“Never born?”

 

“That was your wish, wasn’t it Harry?  That you had never been born?”

 

Harry sat on the low wall of the garden, looking at the door that had closed behind his aunt and cousin.  “So I never got dumped on their doorstep.  I never had live with them.”

 

“No.”

 

“Well, they seem much better off, not having me ruining their lives.”

 

“Perhaps.”

 

“So Voldemort…”

 

“Is alive and well, unfortunately.”

 

In the distance a church bell chimed the quarter hour.  Sirius’ face lit with a grin.

 

“Did you know that every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings?”

 

Harry looked up at Sirius with a question on his lips, but Sirius had placed his hand on Harry’s shoulder once more and they were caught in the maelstrom again.

 

This time they landed on a street in a different sort of neighbourhood.  These homes were older than the housing estate where the Dursleys lived.  The Edwardian brick houses spoke of comfortable wealth that didn’t need to impress anyone.

 

As Harry regained his balance, a familiar voice sounded behind him.  He spun on his heel to see Hermione and her mother coming towards them.  They stepped around Harry and Sirius and turned into the walkway leading up to the nearest house.  Harry noticed that Hermione looked tired and her shoulders curved in a way that suggested she didn’t want to be noticed.  Harry watched as they disappeared behind the enamelled dark blue door.

 

“She didn’t even speak,” Harry rounded on Sirius.

 

“She’s never met you.  As a matter of fact, she’s never met any wizards, that she knows of.”

 

Harry cocked his head in puzzlement.

 

“One of the first things Voldemort did after taking over the government, was put Hogwarts under his direct supervision.  The Quill that recorded the births of all magical children was captured.  The data is now under the control of Voldemort’s followers.  The only children invited to Hogwarts are those of magical families.  If you aren’t from a pureblood magical family you will never know about Hogwarts or the wizard community.”

 

Harry watched as a net curtain was pulled aside at a first floor window.  Hermione peered out at him, with a slight scowl on her face.  Harry gave a slight wave at her, and the curtain quickly dropped back into place. 

 

Sirius looked up at the window with a sad look on his face.  “Hermione goes to an ordinary Muggle school.  She is top of her class, of course, but she knows she is different.  She can feel it.  She’ll just never know what it is.  She’ll go through life always feeling out of place.”

 

“She knows though, she senses it.  She senses us,” Harry argued, looking at the dropped curtain. 

 

“Yes, undoubtedly, but she’ll never have the opportunity to use it, or even explore it.  So much lost, so much wasted,” Sirius mused.  “Of course, she is safer, for now.”

 

“What do you mean, ‘for now’,” Harry asked.

 

“Voldemort still has his hatred for Muggles.  He is systematically eliminating Muggles.  He calls it the ‘final solution’.  Of course Muggles just think it’s an epidemic of flu, but soon the numbers will be too great to ignore.  Muggles with any magical inclinations or connections are the first being targeted.  Your aunt and cousin, as well as Hermione and her parents will be gone by this time next year.”  He gave Harry a squeeze on the shoulder.

 

The sight that greeted Harry as the whirling stopped made him smile.  There, striding out of the back door of The Burrow, were Fred, George and Ron.  They had brooms on their shoulders and as they headed up the hill towards the makeshift Quidditch pitch a voice called out from the shed.

 

“Boys, mind yourselves. Don’t fly too high, and keep a keen eye out.”

 

“Yes, Dad.  We will.  You mind you don’t do something dangerous with that ‘aumotobile’ you keep tinkering with!” Fred said with a wink at his brothers.

 

Mr. Weasley stepped out of the shed.  His hair was a bit thinner, and had lost all the red to it.  His eyes looked older, more tired than the last time Harry had seen him.  He watched carefully as his sons trooped up the hill to the open field beyond.  As he turned back towards the shed, Mrs. Weasley came out of the house carrying two steaming cups.  She handed one to her husband as her eyes joined his in following the progression of the three young men.

 

“They’re almost grown,” she sighed.

 

“Well, technically, Fred and George are grown, but it’s hard to remember that sometimes.”

 

Mrs. Weasley chuckled.  “Well at least they’re still safe and sound.  They’re not off corralling dragons or hunting treasure.  Still, I wish I knew what their plans were.  How can they expect to make a living working at Zonkos?”

 

“Well, it’s better than working at the Ministry.”

 

Mrs. Weasley wrapped an arm around her husband, drawing him into a hug and planting a soft kiss on his cheek.  “I know.  I worry about Percy too.  I just hope he can get through this safely.  Such a chance he is taking.”

 

“He’s doing what is right.  It’s not the easy way out, but Dumbledore thinks it’s imperative that we have someone on Voldemort’s staff.  I can’t get any further in, my opinions are too well known.  I’m not even sure how long I will even have the job I’m in.  You can’t get anymore redundant than Artefact Retrieval.  With the laws of separation of Wizards, there’s hardly any contact with Muggles anymore.”

 

“We’ll find a way.  I have faith that someday Dumbledore will bring Voldemort down, just as he did Grindelwald.”

 

“I wish I had your faith,” Mr. Weasley said, gazing at the wooded path up which the trio had disappeared.

 

“I have to believe he will be defeated. I have to believe good will win out in the end.  Otherwise our Ginny will have died in vain.”

 

This time it was Mr. Weasley’s turn to embrace his wife, and they stood, arm in arm, as if holding each other up.

 

Harry turned to Sirius.  “Ginny’s dead?” he gasped.

 

“Yes.”

 

“But why?” Harry demanded.

 

“She found a diary in her cauldron and began to write in it.”

 

“I don’t understand.  Voldemort didn’t need the diary.  He was alive.  Why would he need her?”

 

“The diary still existed.  It found it’s way into the hands of Lucius Malfoy, who hates Arthur Weasley and his attempts to undermine Voldemort’s government.  Even the demotion of Arthur has not squelched his determination to gather supporters of Dumbledore.  Malfoy decided to teach him a lesson.  He slipped the diary into Ginny’s cauldron, knowing full well what could happen.  Ginny opened the Chamber under the guidance of Riddle.  With the school empty of ‘Mudbloods’, the Basilisk was contained in the Chamber, but Ginny was drawn down there.  She hasn’t been seen since.  She sent an owl to her mother just before she disappeared, telling about the diary and her struggle against it, but by the time Molly got the owl it was too late.  Ginny had gone.  No, Voldemort didn’t need the diary or Ginny, but Lucius thought it would be a good lesson for Arthur, to show him what happens to those who defy Voldemort.”

 

“Still, didn’t anyone else see what was happening to Ginny?  Didn’t anyone go after her?”

 

“No one knew where she went.  There wasn’t a clever second year girl to figure out what the monster in the Chamber was.  There wasn’t a brave twelve-year-old boy willing to risk his own life to go after her.  She was led into the lair of a monster, where she died, alone and afraid.”

 

Harry stared at Mr and Mrs Weasley and didn’t even realise Sirius’ hand was on his shoulder till the whirlwind deposited him next to a crimson-draped four poster in the seemingly familiar tower room.  Harry looked around.  “Where are the rest of the beds?  There are only two in here.”

 

“Yes, that’s right.  That one is Ron’s,” Sirius explained, pointing to the bed closest to Harry.  “And that one is Seamus’.”

 

Harry dropped onto the edge of Ron’s bed, trying to grasp the enormity of everything he had seen.  His mind inventoried the things he had experienced, the things he had done.

 

“The Philosopher’s Stone, what…”

 

“Oh, Voldemort is still after that. Quirrell never did figure out how to get the stone out of the mirror.  Voldemort has no patience for ineffective toadies, so…” Sirius grimaced as he snapped his fingers.  “He’s still trying for immortality, you can be sure.”

 

“And Cedric Diggory?  Did he survive the Tri-Wizard Tournament?”

 

“Oh yes.  Cedric won.  It was quite uneventful, except Ludo Bagman wound up being indentured to the Goblins for his debts.  He didn’t make much, betting on the Bulgarian Quidditch star.”

 

Harry nodded his head, pleased with this news.  Then a thought occurred to him.

 

“What about you? You didn’t have to go running off to save my butt in the ministry.  Why aren’t you alive?”

 

“I was accused of the murder of 13 people and wound up in Azkaban.  I gave up living after about a year in there.  I couldn’t stand it anymore.  All I heard was the screams of my mother as she berated me for disgracing the family name.  I heard the voice of Peter Pettigrew accusing me in front of a street full of Muggles.  I saw the bodies of James and your mother, with her stomach swollen with a child that would never be born, because I had convinced them to choose Peter instead of me. There was no reason to try to escape.  There was no Harry to try to protect.  There was no Harry to rescue me.”

 

Harry’s head spun wilder than it had during any of their whirlwind trips tonight.  How could his life have changed so much in the world?  He was Harry, just Harry.  Just an ordinary sixteen-year-old wizard. Somehow, fate had chosen him to make a difference.  Yes, because of him Cedric had died.  That was horrible, but even more horrible was the alternative.  How many Muggles had died, and would continue to die, because he didn’t want to be responsible?  He couldn’t think. He buried his face in his hands.  Sirius placed his hand on Harry’s shoulder once more.  This time the world did not spin.

 

Harry allowed Sirius to pull his shoes off his feet and lift the covers for Harry to crawl under.  As his eyes closed in exhaustion, he felt Sirius lift his glasses off the bridge of his nose, and stroke his hair gently.

 

“Time for sleep, Harry.  Tomorrow’s another day.  Tomorrow is Christmas.”

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

 

The sunlight that peeked through the opening in the bed drape told Harry he had slept later than usual.  He pulled the drape aside, to see four empty beds as well as his own lining the walls of the circular room.  Harry sighed in relief and climbed from the bed.  He looked down at his wrinkled, dingy clothes.  He yanked them off, replacing them with clean ones that he pulled from his trunk.  He bounded down the spiral stairs and into the empty Common Room.  The sunlight reflecting from the newly crusted snow made the room very bright.  His favourite squishy couch in front of the fireplace looked worn, yet inviting.

 

“Merry Christmas, you old saggy thing you!”  Harry said with a smile, running his hand over the curved back.

 

He pushed his way through the portrait hole. 

 

“You’re cutting it a bit thin, if you’re wanting breakfast,” complained the Fat Lady, straightening the wreath of tinsel encircling her head.

 

“Merry Christmas, m’lady,” Harry said, sweeping into a low bow in front of the portrait guarding the hidden entrance. 

 

She blushed. “Oh, go on with you,” she said, making a pushing motion with her hand.

 

Harry half ran down the corridor, and reaching the first staircase, slid down the broad banister.  Repeating this on the second flight, he found himself being pelted with peppermint humbugs.

 

“Merry Christmas, Peeves,” Harry shouted with a laugh, ducking most of the sweets, but reaching up and grabbing a couple from mid-air, as if they were brown snitches wrapped in Spellophane.

 

He entered the Great Hall to a rush of smells that enticed his stomach to growl.    Professor McGonagall passed him in the door.

 

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter.”

 

“And you, professor.”  With a grin, he headed for the table where the people he was most eager to see were seated.  He cuffed Ron on the shoulder.

 

“Merry Christmas, mate.”

 

“Merry Christmas, Harry,” Ron said, staring at him with puzzlement.

 

Harry reached down and grabbed Hermione and Ginny in a double-armed hug.

 

“I’m so glad to see you.  Merry Christmas!”

 

“Merry Christmas, Harry,” Ginny responded, shaking her head. 

 

Hermione looked at him in askance.  “Well, you certainly are in a better mood today.”

 

“Yup,” he said, sitting down across from Ginny and pulling a plate of sausages towards himself.

 

“And to what do we owe this honour?”

 

Harry thought for a moment, then just shook his head and grinned.  “I just had to see things in a different light.”

 

In the clock tower outside, a deep bell bonged the hour.

 

Ginny leaned toward him.  “Have you heard the old saying?  Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

 

“Yeah, I’ve heard that before,” Harry said with a smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

//
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