The Sugar Quill
Author: Evelyn Dreamtrot  Story: A Sudden Lack of Wingspan  Chapter: Part One
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: none of these characters are mine. I couldn’t make money off this if I tried.

 

 

A Sudden Lack of Wingspan

 

 

Some legends say that on Christmas day, animals are given the gift of speech. This, of course, is not believed by most of humanity.

The rest of humanity are wizards. And while they know that it’s true, they also know that it’s not every Christmas day, but only when the planets are aligned just right.

The little planets on Professor Albus Dumbledore’s watch clicked carefully into place. He looked up over his butterbeer at his second in command, Minerva McGonagall.

“The owlery’s going to be loud tomorrow. Shouldn’t we warn the students?” Minerva asked. Dumbledore’s expression didn’t change, but his eyes brightened slightly.

“Let’s let them figure it out on their own again. That always has amusing results. I do wish Fawkes could ask me what he wanted before Christmas.”

Minerva raised an eyebrow.

 

* * *

 

At midnight that night, only one of the student’s owls (of those not making sure the mail goes through) wasn’t sleeping in the owlery. She had found it rather boring, and the Astronomy Tower was well heated, as its professor lived in the next room and very seldom left this place where he could be so near the stars. A telescope had seemed the perfect perch, but she was too heavy for it and had decided on a pile of books. If one looked through the telescope now, one would see that she had accidentally knocked it to stare directly at the aligning planets and, it would now appear, the small end was pointed directly at her.

Settling into her feathers, she tucked her head under a white wing. A clock somewhere in the tower struck midnight with a bout of bells, whistles, and mooing noises.

She awoke again that morning while it was still dark, as she did every morning, and spread her wings to take flight. Except they weren’t wings anymore. Staring at a pair of featherless hands, she shivered in the cold. She was going to have to find her boy.

 

* * *

 

Mr. Filch warmed one hand over his candle and stalked back down the corridor he had come. Mrs. Norris turned her lamp-like eyes on him in greeting.

“Any nighttime wanderers, my sweet?” he asked.

“Yes. There’s a girl who isn’t a student creeping about in the floor above us. Funny thing, she hooted at me and she isn’t wearing much of anything,” the cat responded. Filch looked at her with wide eyes for a second, then nodded and continued walking.

“Christmas, is it?”

 

* * *

 

The girl being referred to wasn’t exactly creeping, but rather marching through the hall with her nose in the air, following her owner’s familiar smell. She was not, in fact, wearing much of anything but a red collar. Her hair, including her eyebrows and lashes, didn’t even bother with blonde but went straight to white, and was probably a lot softer and lighter than it should have been. It was cropped short in what is commonly referred to as a pixie-cut (which is an absurd name for a haircut; pixies don’t have hair). Her nose was long and slightly peeked downward; she was neither fat nor thin, but somewhere in between, and short. She jumped when a grandfather clock beside her calmly informed her it was six o’clock in the morning, and swiveled her head to it without moving her eyes at all.

Calming herself down, she shifted her nose back to its track, heading toward the Gryffindor common room. She squinted into the darkness. Surely human eyes weren’t this bad. A large pink lady in a portrait stood in her direct path, causing some confusion.

“Password?”

“Hoo?”

“Not who, what. What’s the password?”

“Hoo.”

The girl remembered somewhere in the back of her mind the language humans used, not a variation of octaves and rhythm but a confusing pattern of tongue movements. She had been around them for awhile, so knew it pretty fluently. It just hadn’t occurred to her that they wouldn’t have picked up her language as well.

“Bugger off,” she said, trying to pry the portrait from the wall. Unfortunately, as she soon found out, feet weren’t very well equipped for that.

“I say!”

“Owl pellets! If you-!”

The girl stopped. The portrait had swung open.

“Well, go along, dear,” said the Fat Lady, trying to pull herself together. “That was the password.”

“Right. Of course,” she said, backing toward the hole in the wall because, of course, she’d known this all along.

“And you may want to find some clothes, dear.”

 

* * *

 

Harry Potter swung his legs over the side of his bed and into his slippers, glancing drowsily at his pile of Christmas presents and then at his sleeping friend in the four-poster to his left. He would wait until Ron woke up to open his presents.

As he made his way to the bathroom, pushing his glasses onto his face, something small and feathery bounced off the back of his head.

“Morning, Pig.”

“Morning, Harry!!!” the owl squeaked back, resuming his endless, exciting imitation of a ping-pong ball.

Harry failed to notice that Pigwidgeon had acquired vocal cords and grabbed his toothbrush. Then, taking off his glasses to clean them, he just missed the pale figure rushing by the door, reflected in the bathroom mirror.

 

* * *

 

Evidently humans took certain stock by clothes, or so the Fat Lady had said, and she was cold, anyhoo. Now the girl shifted through robes that smelled pleasantly like her boy, but was having a hard time coming upon one that would fit. She found one that would have to do and pulled the green cloth over her head, ripping it slightly.

“Morning, Hedwig!!!”

“Go away, Pigwidgeon,” said Hedwig, climbing into her boy’s bed.

In the next four-poster Ron sat up and rubbed sleep out of his eyes.

“Happy Christmas, Harry! Get up! Presents!” He heaved himself out of bed and whipped the curtains on Harry’s bed aside.

“Arrrrrrgggggh!” screamed Ron.

“Hoooooooooo!” hooted Hedwig, pulling the covers over her head so quickly she sent herself tumbling off the other side of the bed, tangled in sheets. Ron backed slowly away and watched in horror as the figure struggled.

“H-H-Harry! Harry?”

“What?” Harry stuck his out of the bathroom and continued into the dorm, then froze when he saw the quivering mass of sheets. “What is that?” he mouthed noiselessly to Ron, eyes wide.

“A girl!” Ron mouthed back.

“A what?” Harry said aloud. Ron shrugged, eyes locked on the lump of bed covers.

“Happy Christmas, I guess,” he said.

“She wasn’t there when I woke up!”

“I should hope not.” Hermione’s voice resonated from the doorway. “But I suggest you get her out of here before the other boys wake up.” She looked at the two boys and rolled her eyes. Crookshanks, perched on her shoulder, rolled his eyes also. “Don’t just stand there, help me help her up.”

As Hermione approached the mass a hand whipped out and pulled the sheets off of the girl’s round, pale face. A few brown freckles littered her cheeks and her eyes were large and an unsettling golden brown. She darted her head about, looking at each of them while her chest heaved. Silence filled the room.

“Who are you, exactly?” Hermione breathed, having been startled out of her mind.

Harry couldn’t shake how familiar she was. Something about the unblinking gaze she set on him… his eyes ignored how she practically overflowed the collar of his best dressing gown and shifted to the collar on her neck, one of red silk.

“Hedwig?” he asked quietly.

“Are you kidding me, Harry? You do know Hedwig’s an owl, right?” Ron asked incredulously.

“Well, it’s awful curious, a girl in his bed. Why not?” Hermione argued, with, Harry noticed, a little more venom than usual in her voice. Ron returned the spiteful glare.

“Oh, yes, side with Harry, make me the bad guy-…”

“Harry? There, good,” said Hedwig, gathering herself up and standing. “Strange thing is, I was an owl only yesterday and now I’m not and-…”

“You mean you are Hedwig?” Ron asked, both he and Hermione turned their gaze on her.

“‘Course. Without feathers, that is. And I can’t see a bloody thing.”

Neville snored in the next bed.

Somnus,” whispered Hermione, twitching her wand.

She glanced around, flustered. “Here.” She grabbed Harry’s alarm clock and Transfigured it into a pair of glasses. “Specto. It should match your prescription now. And I bet… I bet this has something to do with Christmas.”

She handed the glasses to Hedwig, who put them on upside down. Hermione corrected her, and a gold sheen slid over the lenses. Hedwig smiled. Her eyes were magnified so that they looked a lot like Professor Trelawney’s: face encompassing and, well, owl-like. And still that bright golden brown.

“That’s better,” Hedwig nodded.

“What about Christmas?” Ron asked.

Something was nagging on the back of Harry’s mind.

“Ron, where’s Pig?” he asked.

“Don’t know. Why?”

“Because I could have sworn…”

“…But that’s funny, because Crookshanks hasn’t said a word…” Hermione mumbled.

“What are you on about?” Ron asked.

“Really, don’t you two ever read? Every 63 years on Christmas day the planets align and animals are allowed to speak-…”

“That’s it, Harry, she’s lost it. We really need-…”

“Isn’t that right, Pig?” Hermione continued.

“That’s right!!!”

“Oh.”

Harry glanced back at Hedwig, who blinked huge eyes back at him. “What about Hedwig?”

“Yes, What about Hedwig? I’m human. I really would rather not be, no offense meant, if you don’t mind,” Hedwig confessed.

“Let’s all get dressed and then go to the library,” Hermione concluded.

Ron gave Harry a sidewise look. “When in doubt…”

Harry ignored him. “Why don’t we just go straight to Dumbledore?”

“This isn’t a threat; this is Hedwig. And besides, she’ll probably just become an owl again at sunset, just like all the other animals will lose their voices. I just want to know how this happened,” said Hermione. She turned to go. “Meet you in the common room in five minutes.”

Harry sighed and turned to Ron when she had left, then his gaze moved to Hedwig sitting on the bed.

“Erm… could you perhaps… go? We need to change,” said Harry sheepishly. Somehow she constantly looked as though you’d offended her.

Hedwig ruffled metaphorical feathers. “Why? I’ve seen you change a dozen times. It’s not like I’ve never seen you bare before.”

Harry’s face turned beet red. Ron began to snigger.

“Well… but you were an owl then and…” he searched around for an excuse and spotted his school robes.

“Oh, I’m still just an owl. But fine…”

“Here…” Harry retrieved a black robe. “Go into the bathroom and change into this so you don’t attract attention.” He tossed it to her. She gave him one indignant look before turning her beak up and marching to the bathroom.

“Still don’t see why we have to go to the Library on Christmas. Should be against the law. Besides,” Ron added, pulling a shirt over his head, the comment slightly muffled, “We want Hedwig to enjoy her first and only day as a human, don’t we?”

Harry looked thoughtful for a moment. “I suppose we do. Let’s let Hermione look up what she wants to look up and talk her into going out.”

“Right, let’s humor Hermione.”

Harry had opened his mouth to respond when Hedwig came bustling in, his dress robes, wrinkled and incredibly stretched, over her shoulder. He rushed to pull his school robes over his head.

“Well, come on, you two. I’ve never seen the library before.”

They followed her into the hallway, corrected her direction, and left the fifth years’ dormitory, Christmas presents forgotten.

Immediately Neville sat up, stretched, and kicked Trevor the toad off the bed.

“Watch it! Fine, I’ll hop off again, see how you like it!” said Trevor.

 

* * *

 

Around a library table all but two of them sat grudgingly flipping through pages about animals and/or magical mishaps. One of those not reading was bustling through the library’s many rows of books, currently untangling her hair from where it had caught on the side of an old shelf. The other was sitting at the table flipping through a book to look at the pictures because she couldn’t read.

“We don’t even know what to look for… Why does she assume we’re all so interested in this sort of thing? We could be outside enjoying ourselves and showing Hedwig how fun it is to be human…” Hedwig made a snorting noise of disbelief, “…but instead we’re looking through ‘Veterinary Digest’… and I just got a bloody paper cut!”

“Listen, Ron, I don’t know what happened but you should probably apologize for whatever you did-…” Harry started.

“I didn’t do anything! She started it! If she hadn’t gotten that letter-!”

“-From Krum…” Harry finished for him. “It was from Krum, right? And you asked about her summer and she said it was fine and it went downhill from there, right?”

Hedwig watched with her face resting on two fists. Evidently the two fought often about letters from this Krum guy. Harry and Ron now bickered about their bickering.

“You like her, don’t you?” said Hedwig suddenly.

Ron stopped mid-angry gesture and both he and Harry stared at her. She smiled and wrinkled her nose at them mischievously. Harry nodded vigorously from behind Ron.

“I do not!” spat Ron, standing up. His chair scratched the floor noisily and the librarian shooshed them.

Harry tried to suppress a smile, then gave up and blocked it from Ron by casually resting his face on his hands. “Why do you say that?”

“Animals often notice things humans don’t,” she said smugly.

“You don’t believe the owl, do you, Harry?! I can’t believe it. It’s obvious there’s nothing-!” He crossed his arms. “I’m gonna go help He-… He-Hedwig. Find some more books…” he added, mumbling and wandering off into the library sulkily, his hands in his pockets.

Hedwig turned to face Harry again. “He likes her, doesn’t he?”

“Probably. He’s being too thick to see and stubborn to admit it even if he did see.” Harry shrugged. “Funny you should notice so soon though. It took me awhile.”

Hedwig opened her mouth just as Hermione and Ron came around a shelf, Hermione looking satisfied and Ron with his lips pursed.

“He apologized,” Hermione mouthed to Harry, who still didn’t know what for but smiled nonetheless. They sat down, Ron with reluctant force. After a few minutes Ron looked up from the book he was flipping through.

“All right, it’ll be breakfast soon. I’ve had enough of this, Hermione... Erm… Where’s Hedwig?”

The other two heads shot their attention from the books to the owl’s empty seat.

“Hoo!”

“Get down from there, young lady!”

The three at the table jetted from their seats toward the sound of the voices. Down the musty bookshelves of the library they ran, until Harry stopped dead in his tracks. The other two banged into him like dominoes.

Hedwig had managed to get herself halfway up one of the tallest shelves in the library. The librarian was scolding her from the floor and bustling around in circles. This was unheard of. Students didn’t suddenly come upon the fancy of climbing bookshelves. If she had wanted a book high up, she could have just asked.

“Hedwig!”

“Oh, hello, Harry. Please do tell that lady down there to shut up, will you?”

“I think I’d get in trouble…” he spotted Madam Pince’s expression, “…more trouble if I do that, Hedwig. Could you just come down?”

“But it’s such a nice view, Harry. You should see it some time…” She spotted Harry’s expression, “…Oh, all right.”

By now she was at the top, and she heaved herself onto it and out of sight. A few seconds later they heard a thump from the other side of the shelf. Madam Pince fainted. The other three rushed around to the other side to find Hedwig standing and brushing herself off. They gaped at her.

“What? Hollow bones, is all. Bit of a nice drift down.”

“Uh… yes,” said Harry, shaking it off. Ron was looking up towards the top of the shelf, some ten feet high. “Let’s get out before she comes around…”

Harry and Hermione each grabbed one of Hedwig’s arms and led her out into the corridor.

Harry looked over his shoulder at a library shelf. It would be a nice view… He would have to try it some day…

“What about breakfast? Great Hall’s this way, c’mon.” Ron led the way.

But as they neared it, they noticed how much louder the Hall seemed to be, as if the number of voices had doubled…

“One owl for nearly every student, I suppose?” asked Hermione as quietly as she could to be heard over the din. “And they’ve all just delivered the mail…”

“Hogsmeade, anyone?” Harry suggested. All four of them watched the owls chat with bemused owners. It all looked rather comic.

“I think Errol is telling Ginny off…” Ron muttered.

“We shouldn’t go off the grounds…” Hermione began.

“No one will miss us, Her-mo-ninny,” said Ron. He turned down a corridor to their left, toward a certain tree on the grounds that would lead them to the Shrieking Shack.

Her-mo-ninny put her hands on her hips and glared at the back of his red head.

 

* * *

 

Hedwig froze in her tracks and sniffed the still, musty air.

“I smell werewolf!”

Harry’s expression became pained, and he lifted the trap door above their heads. They climbed out into the room; it was littered with now familiar broken furniture. From an unknown agreement they all had decided not to touch it.

“And a deer, too!”

Harry froze.

“A male, I believe.”

“That would be a stag… ow… oh…” Hermione started to correct, but Ron nudged her with his elbow. She saw Harry’s face.

“You smell… a stag…” he choked.

“Very faintly. ‘Nother dog, too. The smell’s almost as heavy as the werewolf’s… and some rat which, unfortunately, is also gone ‘cause if not I’d be having breakfast right about now…” Hedwig rambled on, oblivious. “And that’s funny. No other rats… you’d think in a place like this they’d turn up in droves…”

“No,” Harry whispered. “Just one rat.”

“Harry, please. It’s Christmas. Don’t think about it.” Hermione was touching his arm, bringing him back to the present. The shadow of a white stag, a Patronus, blinked at him from the past.

“Come on, Ron,” said Hedwig, grabbing his arm. “Show me what is so good about being hominoid.”

 

* * *

To be continued.

//
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