The Sugar Quill
Author: Mortalus  Story: You Can Never Win  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.

 

Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the characters, places or objects in Harry Potter - that privilege belongs to J.K. Rowling, or, if we’re being technical, to Warner Brothers. Any people, places or objects not from the canonical Harry Potter universe are of my own creation, except I didn’t invent sporks :)

A/N: If you like happy endings this is not your cup o’ java. Warning: dark situations and consumption of alcohol ahead. Thanks go to my friend Sunshine for her encouragement and Arabella for beta-reading. Enjoy everyone!

***

The half-moon shone brightly down upon the otherwise dark Dursley house. Harry sprawled out across the bed in his small room, looking dejectedly up at the ceiling. The events of his fourth year at Hogwarts had played over and over again in his mind for the past month and a half, certainly not encouraging sleep. Cedric’s death. Lord Voldemort’s resurrection. It was all his fault.

“Oh, do stop wallowing in your own self pity. It’s getting rather dull.”

Harry gasped in shock and bolted up, standing in a defensive position on his bed. “Who’s there?” he challenged, fully realizing that if it came to a magical battle, his wand wouldn’t do him much good – the Dursleys had locked it up with his other magical supplies. “Who are you?”

He scanned the room warily. There didn’t appear to be any shadows to hide in with the moonlight streaming in. Except under the bed, he thought in alarm. Cautiously, Harry knelt down on the bed and leaned over the side, peering underneath. There was nothing there except for some lint, a single red and green striped sock, and one of Dudley’s half-built airplane models.

Harry sighed and pulled away. As he came to a sitting position on the bed, an upside-down head materialized inches from his face. Harry yelped in surprise, his limbs falling back onto the bed in a tangle.

He got a closer look at the person – or creature – that was now flipping itself upright in midair. Its eyes were what first struck him; they were pure red, completely lacking pupils. Its hair was even wilder than Harry’s and its skin had an unhealthy gray pallor. The face seemed expressionless, though Harry could sense its escalating annoyance.

“Would you please stop referring to me as an ‘it’? I prefer to be called a ‘he’, at least in this form,” he added, and Harry was startled to discover that the creature did not need to move his light pink lips when he spoke.

Harry looked up at the intruder with great surprise showing in his eyes. “How did you-?”

“Get in here? Read your thoughts? Please. Neither normal nor magical rules apply to my kind. Let’s just say it’s a trade secret,” he spoke with a tone of amusement. “Well, let’s get started, shall we? I may have all eternity, but your short-lived species certainly cannot boast the same.”

He floated down to the floor, and Harry was struck by how thin and short he was for someone so unnerving. He was childlike in appearance, though he certainly wasn’t human enough to gauge his age with any accuracy. Harry sat up and gave the stranger an apprehensive look.

“Appearances can be deceiving, you know,” he said as he wagged his finger in disapproval. “Your old professor, Mr. Lockhart, is an excellent example of such.”

“How did you-” Harry began.

If he had possessed pupils, he would have rolled his eyes. “I told you, whatever expectations you might have of one of your people do not apply to me. I know anything and everything I care to know.”

“Who are you and why are you here?” Harry asked.

His lips curved upward so slightly that it was barely noticeable. “Ah, finally we get to the point. My name, as it would be pronounced in your primitive tongue, is Sycophant.”

Still his mouth remained closed as he spoke. He held out his hand, and Harry shook it. It was cold as ice. Harry’s eyes never left the unrevealing face of his ‘guest’.

“As for why I am here, it is only to be of service to you, my young friend,” Sycophant said. “I have an offer for you – one you cannot possibly refuse.”

“Oh really,” Harry responded skeptically. “You’re telling me you broke into my house in the middle of the night and scared me half to death to help me?”

“Terribly sorry about that,” he said, not sounding sorry at all. “I didn’t mean to frighten you, amusing as it was.” He bowed, his unblinking eyes staring into Harry’s. He levitated half an inch off the ground and floated to the end of the bed.

Harry blinked, still not quite believing that this Sycophant creature could do all these things without a wand or any other magical assistance. “What are you?” he asked, his curiosity overriding his edginess.

Sycophant’s voice began to sound hostile, his mouth making a slight downward turn. “You want me to describe myself? Why on earth would I do a thing like that? To satisfy your mortal curiosity? I have been an enigma for longer than your pathetic species has existed, and yet you have the gall to believe that you could understand my complexities?”

He sighed, and it felt to Harry as if all the anger in Sycophant’s voice was trickling away to an unknown place for safekeeping. “My apologies. I do tend to rant, particularly when I hear the same question I’ve been asked over and over again for millennia; you might say I’ve had considerable experience with this sort of thing. If you must know, I am a very special being equipped with some very special abilities that aid me in my business.”

“And what is your business, exactly?” Harry wondered.

“Helping people like you,” Sycophant said.

“And how do you plan to help me?” Harry asked as he raised his eyebrows.

“By giving you whatever you want.” He floated over to Harry until their faces were only an inch apart. “Anything at all. Just say the word and,” he snapped his fingers, “it shall be done.”

Harry considered the notion for a moment. “You’re saying that you can give me anything I want? Anything at all?” Sycophant nodded his head slowly, his face lighted by the sickening red glow of his eyes.

Harry looked the strange being over one more time and noticed for the first time the awkward, silvery belt he was wearing. It had about a dozen spoon-like objects hanging off of it-

“Sporks.”

Harry looked up from the belt. “What?” he queried in confusion.

“Sporks, boy, sporks! You know, part spoon, part fork – spork,” he explained, tipping his body into a sitting position in midair and crossing his arms.

Harry hesitated. “Um, why are you wearing sporks on your belt, then?” he asked, the word ‘loony’ crossing his mind.

“I heard that,” he spoke in the same condescending tone he had used throughout their conversation. “I’ll have you know that I am the owner of the largest spork collection in this – or any other – plane,” he replied importantly, as if it was a great accomplishment. “They are truly remarkable inventions, you know. I absolutely adore sporks. I could talk about them for hours on end.”

Harry, trying his best to keep his thoughts and actions under control, used great mental concentration to keep from sniggering, inside or out. “Anyway, about that wish-?”

“Oh, yes, yes…” Sycophant mumbled. “There is only one rule: I can’t change the past. Don’t ask me why,” he shrugged. “Something about ripping the fabric of time into shreds and such.

Aside from that, whatever you want is yours.” He restlessly moved about in the air once again to lie on his side, his chin in his hand. “On one condition – one I am required to outline very clearly,” he spoke seriously.

“I knew there would be a catch,” Harry murmured.

“Quite a good deal, you know – an exceptional offer. Whatever you want, in exchange for one, minor, useless little article: your soul.”

Harry smirked. “Right. You really expect me to trade you my soul for some material possession? No deal.”

Sycophant’s face remained impassive. “Smart boy. Of course, no material possession would be worth that, would it? But what you don’t seem to realize is that I can give you anything at all, not just material things. I know everything about you, Harry Potter,” he spoke morbidly. “You could wish for Voldemort’s death-”

“No.” Harry said. “That would just be letting him win. I won’t lose my soul for that monster.”

“But would you trade your soul to bring your parents back from the dead?” he whispered.

Harry remained still, his eyes going wide as saucers. “I thought you said you couldn’t change the past,” he said in a broken voice.

“No,” Sycophant conceded, “but that doesn’t mean I can’t bring them back now. Death is an inconsequential roadblock to one such as I.”

“You…you could really do that?” Harry asked. “I could really have my mum and dad back?”

“Certainly,” he replied. “You could repay them for saving you by bringing them back from the dead. Terribly touching, wouldn’t you say?” He drew a handkerchief out of the air and dabbed his eyes, though they showed no evidence of tears. “To give up something so very important; your parents would be very, very proud.”

Harry didn’t waste another moment considering the offer. “I’ll do it. This is the only chance I’ll ever get to do this, so I’ll take it.”

“Excellent!” Sycophant exclaimed, rubbing his hands together. “Now for the contract.”

With the snap of his fingers, a long scroll of parchment materialized in his hand, unrolling until it hit the floor. It looked very long and boring. “Here it is.” He snapped his fingers again, and a phoenix-feather quill appeared in Harry’s hand. “All you have to do is sign here,” he pointed to a line in the middle of the document, “and here, and here – with blood, naturally, for tradition’s sake. You’re not the squeamish type, are you?” he queried with a tone of dread. “That’s the hardest part for some people, you know. You humans make no sense to me; you’re about to sell your soul, and yet you get all uppity about having to prick a finger to do it.”

“I’ll be fine,” Harry said. Nevertheless he cringed as Sycophant produced a small knife from out of nowhere and cut a tiny wound in his finger.

“That should do it. Just dip your quill in the blood and sign in the appropriate areas,” he explained patiently as if speaking to a small child. Harry reluctantly dipped his quill into his blood and signed the contract without reading it. After all, I’m already selling my soul. Anything he could slip into the contract doesn’t really matter much compared to that, he thought.

“A good point, Mr. Potter,” he said, reading his mind again. The parchment snapped up into his hand and disappeared. “Now that that nasty business is over with, you can finally receive your wish.” He backed up into the middle of the room and began waving his hands around ridiculously. “Abracadabra, alakazam, blah, blah, blah.” He snapped his fingers loudly, the noise echoing throughout the room with a loud boom. Harry felt a small stabbing pain in his chest for a moment, but it quickly dissipated. “It is done.”

Harry looked around the room excitedly, but it seemed as if nothing had changed. “Where are they?” he asked.

“In their coffins,” Sycophant replied nonchalantly, shrugging his shoulders.

“In their coffins?!” he gasped. “Where?”

“In their graves, obviously.”

“What? But they’ll die in there – again!” Harry cried. He covered the distance between himself and Sycophant in one leap, grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him. “Get them out, now!” he demanded angrily. Harry immediately found himself being flung across the room like a rag doll by an invisible force, colliding with the wall. He shook his head to clear out the cobwebs and groaned in pain.

“Never lay a hand on me again,” Sycophant whispered, his hands coiling into fists. He abruptly brightened up. “Now, mind you, I’m not obligated to do this,” he said, floating back and forth across the room as if pacing, “but just this once I’ll excuse your poorly worded, unspecific wish and release your parents from their graves, free of charge.” He snapped his fingers again. “There. They’ve been dug up. And to be even nicer I’ll transport you and your lovely family right to the graveyard” He didn’t wait for a reply before ominously snapping his fingers once more.

“My family?” Harry asked. “But-“

It was too late. He already felt himself spiraling through the darkness of night, but to where, he didn’t know. As long as I get to see my parents…

Sycophant remained in the room alone for a brief moment. “But you may regret it,” he said to the empty house before disappearing himself.

*************************

Harry landed on his rear end, clad in nothing more than his boxers, in the middle of the graveyard. Three other figures followed shortly; Dudley landed a few feet away, his blubber protecting him from any harm the fall might have otherwise brought; Uncle Vernon landed near Dudley, flat on his face and automatically turning a mild shade of purple; then came Aunt Petunia, who landed right on top of Vernon, the cucumbers from her overnight beauty treatment keeping her blind until she finally thought to take them off.

When all three were standing and noted Harry’s presence, Vernon began his transformation to a dark maroon.

“Boy,” he began, barely able to speak through his puffed out cheeks. “What have you done?”

Harry looked at his uncle and smiled happily at being accused for the first time. “Something I’m sure you’ll thank me for later. I’m going to be rid of you, and you’re going to be rid of me.”

“This is more of your magic nonsense! I won’t have it, do you hear me?! I WON’T HAVE IT!” Vernon bellowed, his voice frighteningly loud in the silence of the graveyard.

“Mummy, where are we?” Dudley whined.

“Don’t worry, Duddykins, Mummy will protect you,” Petunia smiled, patting Dudley’s head.

“I’m delighted to see that you’ve all made it safely,” said a voice from behind a nearby tombstone. All four of them looked toward it. When Dudley saw Sycophant, he jumped into his mother’s arms. As he was about six times her weight, she abruptly fell down onto the ground.

“What in God’s name is that thing?” Vernon shouted, looking to Harry for an explanation.

“I am not a ‘thing’ and I have nothing to do with God,” Sycophant replied. He floated himself over the tombstone. “Come along, dear boy. Your parents await.”

“His what?” Petunia squeaked.

“It’s a zombie, Mummy, a zombie!” Dudley cried.

Sycophant abruptly teleported from Harry’s side to face Dudley. He gave him a wicked smile that showed two sets of tiny, pointed teeth on each jaw, the second set behind the first. “Don’t you wish,” he sneered, before teleporting back to Harry. “Let’s go.”

They had to wait another few moments, as Dudley had fainted.

*************************

Harry and Sycophant led the way, with the Dursleys trailing unhappily behind. “This is an awfully big graveyard,” Harry said, starting to feel a little afraid as he remembered what had happened the last time he had been in a graveyard.

“Voldemort isn’t here, you needn’t worry. It’s just a little further,” Sycophant coaxed. Harry had no real choice but to follow.

They reached the graves. Harry didn’t need to be told that they were his parent’s graves; it was rather obvious by the fact that the holes were neatly dug up, and the coffins were sitting open, side by side. Reading the gravestones confirmed this: Lily Potter, 1959-1981, James Potter, 1959-1981.

Harry shivered; he had never seen his parent’s graves, and the coldness of it disturbed him.

“Where are they?” he asked, frowning at the empty gravesite.

“Oh, I’m sure they’ll turn up,” Sycophant replied. He began floating around the graves and whistling, his hands stuck into previously nonexistent pockets.

“Yes, that’s right, I can bring people back from the dead and make my own pockets, too,” Sycophant replied to Harry’s unspoken thought, not completely without sarcasm. “Balderdash, where are they? I’m becoming bored.”

“Look here, you,” Vernon began. It was the first time he had spoken since they had set out for the graves. “My family and I want to go home. This is utter nonsense. The brat’s parents are dead and that’s all there is to it. Now-“

From out of nowhere, a sleek, grey-skinned figure jumped Vernon from the side, sending him crashing into the ground. At closer examination Harry saw that it was horribly disfigured and had gigantic incisors. It snapped and hissed at its prey as another, slightly smaller creature came out from behind it.

“Oh good, they’re finally here,” Sycophant stated.

Harry’s mouth opened and closed a few times while the two creatures leered at the Dursleys. “They…my…?”

“Yes, yes, James and Lily, your adorable parents. They make such a nice couple, wouldn’t you say?”

“They’re vampires!” Harry cried. He reached for his wand, then realized that he was still clad in only his boxers and had no wand to speak of. He turned to face Sycophant. “You lied to me! You said you’d bring them back to life!” he spat.

“I said no such thing. I specifically remember you using the phrase ‘back from the dead’. Well, there you are! They may not be alive, per se, but they are undead.”

“They’re hideous! Make them stop!” Harry protested. He watched his father begin licking his Uncle Vernon’s neck as his mother stalked his aunt and cousin.

“Did you expect them to be pretty? They’ve been decomposing for almost fourteen years. I must admit I did stick a little skin back on and give them back their eyes to spruce them up for you. Isn’t it cute how they’re playing with their food?”

Harry looked at Sycophant with an expression of pure revulsion. “You’re sick,” he stated, horrified. “Stop them now!”

“I’m afraid that I can only do that if you wish to undo your wish,” Sycophant replied, leaning against one of the tombstones and giving a crude version of a smirk.

Harry tightened his fists. He looked at his parents. This isn’t what they would have wanted to become, he told himself. “Fine. I wish to undo my wish, just stop them before they kill someone!”

“Done.” Sycophant snapped his fingers, resulting in the same resounding noise as before. The vampiric Potters fell lifelessly to the ground in the same moment that Harry blacked out.

*************************

“At times like these, I am drawn to a line written, ironically enough, by a human. His name was Shakespeare, I believe. ‘Lord, what fools these mortals be.’ Dear Robin hit the nail on the head with that one.”

“I do hope that I am not included in that generalization.”

“I do not insult my employers. It’s bad for business.”

Voldemort sat back on his throne, his lipless mouth set in a hard line. “I’m still having trouble believing that he didn’t even read the contract. Despite his pitifully average intelligence, I would have given him more credit than that.”

Sycophant shrugged and took a sip of his wine. “They never do, otherwise he would have known that reneging on his wish would result in my immediate possession of his body as well as his soul. It seems that wishes are nothing but trouble for your kind.”

An annoyed twitch made a brief appearance on the Dark Lord’s face before being quickly squelched, and he appeared emotionless once more. “And for you?” Voldemort asked.

Sycophant made a tight-lipped smile. “I have learned in my everlasting life that wishes are nothing but trouble. For instance, I could just wish myself every single spork on the face of the planet, but then what would I do for the rest of eternity? The chase isn’t just half the fun, it’s the whole tamale. Most mortals, with their fist-sized piece of fluff that they call a mind, just cannot comprehend that.”

“I suppose there truly is an idiot born every minute,” Voldemort remarked.

Sycophant smirked. “A sucker? As in only one? My, aren’t we optimistic.”

There was a short pause in the conversation as Voldemort refilled his goblet of wine. It was as dark as blood. “He is still alive, isn’t he?” Voldemort asked sharply. “He’s no good to me dead. Well, at least not as much fun."

Sycophant’s smirk quickly changed to a sneer as he put his goblet down roughly onto the table. “How dare you insinuate that I would murder! Murder is cliché. What sort of accomplishment is it to succeed in what any idiot could do with a shovel? And the results are so unsatisfying - a splash of blood, a fleeting moment of pain and suffering, but then what? No sporks, certainly. Why restrict myself to the meaningless, transient torture of the flesh when the excruciating anguish of the soul is eternal? Besides, I’m a pacifist,” he added.

“Give him to me, then,” Voldemort insisted.

Sycophant narrowed his eyes. “Not until I get my payment. You do have it, do you not? You should know that I’m a very poor sport about being double-crossed.”

Voldemort reached into the pocket of his robe and drew out a small velvety jewelry box. He opened it and showed Sycophant its contents. His crimson eyes lit up in delight.

It was a small golden spork, decorated with rubies, emeralds and diamonds. “It’s simply beautiful,” Sycophant whispered in awe. “And it’s just my size.”

Voldemort snapped the case closed. “The boy,” he demanded.

Sycophant reached into his pocket. He reached down farther and farther, until his arm was in quite an awkward position and was stuck in his pocket up to just above his elbow. Finally he drew out a tiny purple vial. “He’s in here,” he said.

“How do you get him out?" Voldemort asked curiously, running his index finger down the opaque purple glass.

Sycophant stood up and smashed the vial to the ground. A cloud of orange smoke went up in the air. As it began to clear, Harry Potter’s small form became visible. He looked around in confusion for a moment before quickly locking his eyes on a very pleased Voldemort. Harry stood before his worst enemy in nothing but his boxers, without his wand. He was helpless.

Sycophant took the spork case from Voldemort’s hand. “Pleasure doing business, and all that,” he said before teleporting away in a flash. Harry was left alone with Voldemort. He began backing away, but tripped on the rug and fell backward onto the floor. As Voldemort walked slowly toward him, savoring every step, there was a distant echo that sounded like Sycophant’s voice.

“Silly boy. This is no fairytale: you can never win.”

 

//
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