The Nightmare Before Hogwarts

By: USA Tiger

Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of J. K. Rowling. The Nightmare Before Christmas is the property of Touchstone/Disney and Tim Burton. Corpse Bride is also the property of Tim Burton and Warner Bros. Pictures. Beetlejuice is also property of Tim Burton. The Scooby-Doo series and related characters are the property of Hanna-Barbera and Warner Brothers.

Author note: So all the fans of this fic for the lloonnngg wait. Work keeps me very busy, we can't keep full shifts and working a lot of overtime which makes me very tired and not wanting to work on any stories. And trying to catch up on other fics I'm behind all. It's a mess honestly.

But thanks for hanging with my guys.

This chapter was betaed and edited by The Patient One. Thanks to Plumalchemyst and Werejaguar of Halloween Town who helpped me brain storm this fic.

Chapter 22

Petunia let out a huff as she stormed into her kitchen, headache pounding at her temples, wanting to get away from the woman drinking up her husband's good brandy in the living room. She was going to kill her husband the first chance she got. Really, inviting that woman to stay through the holidays!

To say that Petunia didn't like Marge Dursley was an understatement. She loathed her sister-in-law with every fiber of her being and the feeling was mutual from Marge's side.

Marge had never approved of Vernon marrying Petunia. Now she hadn't tried to stop her brother from marrying the woman he obviously loved but it didn't stop her snide comments about Petunia and her family. Petunia had come from a poor family after all while Vernon had come from a, while not rich, well-to-do family.

Luckily, Petunia usually only had to see her sister-in-law about once a year during the summer, during that time Vernon would usually take a few days off to spend at home and act as a buffer between his older sister and his wife. Plus there was the boy who Marge had turned her hateful comments toward, one of the few things about Harry being gone that Petunia would miss, and her Dudders whom Marge adored.

Then Vernon had gotten the brilliant idea to invite Marge to stay up through Christmas, maybe even through the New Year. He hadn't wanted Petunia to be in the house by herself during the day he said. That the so-called "haunting", though Petunia hadn't quite gone that far to call it that just yet, only seemed to happen when Petunia was alone so if she had someone with her all day long then it shouldn't happen.

That was all good and well in theory but that left Petunia having to deal with Marge by herself during the day while Dudley was in school. And now she didn't have her freak of a nephew to push at Marge to take the brunt of the woman's words.

Then of course there was that blasted bulldog, Ripper. That slobbery beast went everywhere with Marge, it left drool and fur all over Petunia's furniture as Marge let the thing up on the couch and chairs despite Petunia's protests. It was housebroken, mercifully, but it still left piles of its waste in her well-kept yard. And now that Harry had gone missing, Petunia was the one to clean up the disgusting piles as Marge didn't bother, Vernon refused, and Petunia would never send her beloved Dudders to do it.

Petunia sighed, bracing her arms on either side of the sink as she leaned forward her head bowed. And the worst part was…

The worst part was the 'happenings' didn't stop; in fact, Petunia could almost swear that they picked up in activity. Mysterious sounds, voices both familiar and not, items moving on their own, food and drink tasting off though it seemed to be fine, the list went on.

Petunia was… well, it was hard to put into words. She wasn't unafraid, there were still times she was terrified by what was going on and how it might affect her little family, but she was also just so frustrated by it all.

Dudley had started complaining about hearing sounds from under his bed or in his closet, having his mum check before he went to sleep every night. Vernon played it off as being rodents in the walls, just like everything else. Petunia just wasn't sure, though she had to admit her baby boy did leave a lot of food wrappers in his room. This time her husband might have a point.

And somehow that woman in her living room didn't seem to notice anything was going on! Petunia could understand Vernon, he knew something was happening, knew magic and wizards and all that nonsense was real but was choosing to ignore all of the things that were happening and was instead offering alternative ideas that couldn't explain away everything, wanting to pretend magic was just make-believe.

Marge, on the other hand, didn't have that excuse! She had no knowledge of magic as far as Petunia knew, but she still didn't seem to notice a thing, not the sounds, not the odd goings-on, nothing. Petunia was starting to wonder if whatever was going really was in her head or was just messing just with her except that Ripper would sometimes stare at something that didn't seem to be there. Sometimes the bulldog would growl, sometimes he would whimper, but he was clearly seeing or at least sensing something. Didn't Petunia read one time cats and dogs could see ghosts?

Petunia snorted to herself as she turned the tap on and filled a small glass with water. Ghosts, that was just silly, no rational person believed in ghosts. Her hand paused over to the knob to turn the water off as another thought occurred to her: no rational person would believe in magic either yet Petunia knew it was real, thanks to her witch of a sister and that horrible Snape boy that hung out with Lily.

And didn't Lily mention ghosts at that school of hers…

Petunia shut off the tap and turned to face the kitchen, eyes searching every inch of space as if looking to see if there really was a ghost.

"Lily?" she whispered out loud, waiting to see if there was an answer. "A-are you the one haunting me?" Again she waited as if waiting for an answer, any answer.

"Petunia," Marge's voice startled Petunia, making her drop the glass she was holding with a little screech. The glass shattered as it hit the floor, soaking Petunia's shoes and stockings. The sound set Ripper off, the dog barking wildly.

"Don't sneak up on me like that," Petunia snapped, glaring at her sister-in-law who stood in the doorway. The other large woman, who was slightly buzzed from the brandy, was giving Petunia a judgmental look that just made Petunia angrier. "And shut that blasted dog up!"

"Ripper, be quiet," Marge said to her dog, the canine instantly stopping his barking as he was trained to do, then stated, "You didn't hear a word I said earlier."

"No," Petunia bit out, bending down to carefully gather up the larger pieces of glass off the floor. "What is it?"

"I asked what sort of meal you were planning for Christmas but I can see you are busy," Marge said, promptly turning on her heel and heading back to the living room, calling for Ripper to follow her and leaving Petunia to seethe in anger in the kitchen. She could see now what Vernon had meant; Petunia was clearly having some sort of problems.

Marge groaned as she sat down in the comfy armchair in front of the TV, her thoughts on the other woman in the house. To this day she wished she knew why her younger brother had to fall in love with that woman, she never thought Petunia was a good match for Vernon. Her poor background, her questionable family, so many things wrong. But Vernon loved Petunia Evans, assuring Marge and their parents that she was a good proper woman.

Marge supposed it could be worse, her nephew Dudley was growing up to be a fine strapping lad just like Vernon was at that age. The other boy, Potter, she was sure was going to be a hopeless case just like his parents had said to have been. She could already see how much trouble the boy would be, she had a knack for seeing this sort of thing after all. It came with raising proper, well-bred bulldogs after all. Yes, there was bad breeding there she was sure of it.

Still, maybe the boy had a chance now, this distant relative of Petunia might be able to whip the boy into shape.

'Either way, he's no longer Vernon's problem,' Marge thought to herself as she picked up her glass of brandy and took a drink from it only to spit it back out coughing. "What in the world?" She asked as she stared down at the glass in her hand, wiping her mouth with the other. The brandy tasted horrible, like something from the trash. Which didn't make sense, it had tasted fine a few minutes ago! Marge picked up the bottle that the brandy had been poured from and took a whiff, her face screwing up at the rancid smell that wafted from the container.

James, invisible to everyone except the dog that was cowering in the corner, laughed his ass off as he watched Marge storm back into the kitchen with the bottle in hand. Soon raised voices poured out of the kitchen as Marge and Petunia argued. That had gone a lot better than he hoped.

He hadn't thought he would be able to get his revenge on Marge Dursley on Harry's behalf, Harry hadn't known where she lived and she usually only visited during the summer. But now Vernon had invited her for the holidays, giving James the chance he needed to include her in his haunting.

James propped his feet up in midair and crossed his arms over his chest as he considered the woman. She was as large, if not a little larger, than her brother and had a face only a mother could love. If Marge and Vernon looked anything like their mother then no wonder Vernon thought Petunia was a beauty: his horse-face sister-in-law was loads better than the older Dursley sibling. The more pressing and frustrating concern was that she was far tougher to crack than Vernon and Petunia. James had done all sorts of things to Marge since she arrived and she ignored every single attempt he made.

At least with Vernon, it was entertaining, the man knew magic was real but was determined to try and explain away as normal occurrences. It was fun watching Vernon's face turn red, nearly purple when James did something that he couldn't come up for a reason for but tried anyway.

Petunia, on the other hand, was bit by bit losing her mind from James's pranks. She deserved much worse, James would love to really let her and Vernon have it, but he had promised Lily he wouldn't go too overboard. Either way, the experience would stick with her for the rest of her life.

Dudley…well, James had been leaving the kid alone for the most part; a few sounds in the night, releasing a couple of rats in his room, nothing large-scaled. James honestly felt a little sorry for the little bastard, the kid was a spoiled-ass bully but he had also been raised that way so didn't know any better. He winced as he thought back on his Hogwarts days, some of his classmates would describe him as a spoiled bully too no doubt and it made James regret a lot of the things he had done in 'good fun.' He wasn't as horrible as Dudley, he didn't think so at least, but there were people like Snape whom he hadn't made life easy.

James still couldn't stand Snape, the other man had been just as horrible as a teen picking on younger, weaker students, and had gotten the Marauders back just as much but James did wonder what would have happened if he and Sirius hadn't gone after Snape as often as they did.

Still, back to Marge, James had tried everything to get a rise out of the large woman. Messing with her drink had been a last-ditch idea at some sort of revenge. It was unsatisfactory, but if he couldn't scare her, James would do all he could to make her time at Privet Drive uncomfortable.

A whimper in the corner drew James's attention and he sneered at the bulldog that was staring right at him. That blasted mutt had bit his little boy and chased Harry around, how the dog was allowed around children James didn't know.

"Hhhaaaa!" He leaped at the dog, using his powers to twist his face into a horrible sight. Ripper yelped loudly and ran from the room leaving a trail of piss behind him. Marge and Petunia came running out of the kitchen, Marge yelling about her dog as Ripper ran around wildly while Petunia screeched in horror at the mess the dog left behind.

James cackled in laughter at the chaos.

"Awwooo! This way Harry!" Winnie called as she raced ahead on all fours, zig-zagging around the tombstones. Sirius, in Padfoot form, barked and raced after her looking like an overgrown puppy. Harry laughed and chased them both.

A few days after his visit to the North Pole to visit Santa and the jolly old man easing Harry's fears about not being a 'freak' but in fact a kind, sweet boy had done wonders for the young wizard. He was now very excited about the upcoming holiday and getting to spend it with his loving family. He and Winnie were also becoming very good friends; the werewolf girl spent a lot of time with Harry while her dad and uncle helped Harry's Uncle Moony with his transformations. It was slow going on the werewolves' part but Remus was slowly becoming more at ease with his inner werewolf, heading toward a full merger between the two halves.

Today it was just Harry and Winnie playing together with Sirius watching over them, their other monster friends busy with their own things. The North Pole trip had also helped bring Sirius and Harry closer together. Harry didn't quite call Sirius 'uncle' yet but he was happily spending more time with his Godfather.

They were exploring out a little further around Halloween Town, going past the graveyard and pumpkin patch. The holiday world was not located on Earth, unlike the Christmas Town, but its own contained if small world. There was a spooky lake, a boggy swamp, a corn maze, and many other places that were often associated with the holiday in one way or the other. There were, according to Aunt Sally, other smaller towns full of monsters and others who lived by themselves in houses, caves, or wherever they were most comfortable. All these monsters would usually come to Halloween Town around Halloween, important town meetings or just to visit.

"Wait up!" Harry said, running around a crumbling tombstone and jumping over vines. Winnie waited by the gate for Harry and Padfoot, shifting from one paw to the other.

"Slowpoke," Winnie teased good-naturedly as Harry finally caught up with her. Harry grinned back, he was getting comfortable enough to take the teasing and give back his own.

"Not everyone can run on all fours like you and Sirius," he said as he opened the rusty gate which swung open with a loud screeching groan.

"You should learn, it's a lot better than running around on two legs," Winnie said then snapped her fingers and grinned. "Awwooo! I could teach you how!"

"I don't think I'm able to run around like that, 'm human remember?" Harry pointed out laughing as they headed down the path. Padfoot gave a doggy snort and grin, pushing his head up under Harry's hand, getting Harry to scratch behind his ear.

"Phooey," Winnie said with a pout then pointed at Padfoot. "What about that, then? Turning into a dog?"

"I asked if I could turn into a puppy but Daddy said I have to be a lot older to try," Harry sighed; he still thought it would be fun to turn into an animal. Padfoot bumped his head against Harry's side in comfort, wishing he could help his pup in that. But learning how to be an Animagus was really difficult and too much for a young child. He and James had barely been able to do it as teenagers, and they were the brightest in their year! To this day, he was still surprised that Pettigrew had managed it, with or without help.

Maybe the fact that Pettigrew had managed the change, or the fact that his animal form was a bloody rat, should have clued the rest of the Marauders that Peter wasn't what he seemed.

"So which way to this maze?" Harry asked as he and Winnie started down the dirt path outside the graveyard. Padfoot yipped and quickly moved to catch up with the pups, coming to walk by Harry's side with his tongue lolling out of his mouth as he panted.

"Not sure, Miss Sally only said it was outside the town," Winnie said. "Hey, what's that?" She asked, pointing to a large tree in the distance. Harry saw where she was pointing and shook his head.

"Don't bother, it's where those mean kids live," he said. Winnie had been warned about Oogie's boys by Harry and the other kids already, and Harry wanted to avoid them as much as possible after their last, and so far only, meeting.

"Too bad they get the cool-looking treehouse," Winnie said. Harry had to agree, having a treehouse would have been pretty cool. Dudley tried to beg his parents to let him have one after hearing that a couple of kids from school had treehouses in their yards but it was one of the few things Dudley was ever denied by Petunia and Vernon in their short lifetimes. Not only did they lack a tree suitable to build a treehouse in, Petunia refused to have anything that Dudley could fall out of and hurt himself. Harry remembered the royal fit Dudley threw over that decision, his aunt and uncle had bought him new toys and ice cream to calm him down.

Not long after, Dudley seemed to completely forget about wanting a treehouse. Harry on the other hand hadn't, he still thought the idea was very cool. Having a little house in a tree where Dudley couldn't, or wouldn't, climb up to get him had a lot of appeal. Of course, Harry would never say out loud to his Aunt and Uncle that he would have liked a treehouse too, he learned a long time ago to never ask them for anything, especially anything that their son had also wanted/had.

"What if… we build our own treehouse?" Harry asked. Winnie's eyes lit up and her tail wagged.

"Awwooo! That's a great idea!" she said. "We'll make it better than that other one!" Padfoot barked in agreement, he had no idea what a treehouse was other than what it sounded like, a house in a tree. But it sounded like something (most of) his family would have hated so Sirius was all for it! "Come on, let's go find a tree!"

"Yeah!" Harry agreed, laughing as he, Winnie, and Padfoot ran down the path. "You think we should get the guys to help?"

"Hmmm, let's wait until we find the perfect tree then tell them," Winnie said. "Maybe we can get my friends to visit, Elsa and Phanty would love to help for sure." Harry perked up a bit, Winnie told him about her friends back home in Transylvania and how they all went to Grimwood's School in someplace in America called Louisiana. Harry had no idea where that was in the US, he just assumed it was a town for now, but he thought the school sounded a lot more interesting than his old school. He even wondered about going to Winnie's school until she told him it was a school for girls only.

"So what about that forest over there?" Winnie asked pointing toward the Hinterlands. Sirius took that moment to shift back into his human form and sit down on a nearby boulder.

"Okay, kiddos, you gotta explain this treehouse thing to me and I'll help you find a really good tree," he offered. The kids shrugged and sat down in front of Sirius, each explaining the concept of a treehouse to him and how it ranged to simple to really fancy. Sirius nodded along with their words, it really did sound just as Muggle and simple as he thought it did. The idea of it enchanted him, not to mention it would make his godpup and the other kids happy. "Okay, we need to find that perfect tree, then. The trees inside the Hinterlands won't do any good, they're too tall and skinny to hold up a house and I don't think the others in there are suitable for it."

Plus Sirius didn't think they needed to be playing in those woods, too easy to get lost in.

"Where do we look, then?" Harry asked head tilting to the side.

"We'll find a good tree, don't worry Harry," Sirius said with a grin as he ruffled Harry's hair.

"Awwooo! Let's find one then!" Winnie said as she jumped to her feet. Harry cheered in agreement as he got to his feet as well making Sirius laugh. He let the excited pair lead him down the path. The rocky path passed by a large pumpkin patch where a tall figure was tending to the pumpkins.

"Who's that?" Harry whispered as he saw the figure, hiding slightly behind Sirius. He hadn't seen this monster before in town yet so was a bit wary though so far he had yet to meet a truly bad monster.

The figure turned and noticed them, giving a friendly wave then walking toward them. Sirius took the figure in as they walked toward the pair of wizards and young she-wolf.

He, Sirius could also assume the figure was a 'he' anyway, was a tall lanky scarecrow wearing a light brown shirt, tan patches at the elbows, with a darker brown scruffy-looking button-up vest worn over it and a brown pair of slacks with various colors of patches sewed onto them. Hands encased in a light tan pair of gloves, a tattered red and white handkerchief around his neck, scuffed brown loafers, and a tattered half cloak hanging from his shoulders added to his style.

On top of the scarecrow's neck was a pumpkin for a head carved in a friendly grin with eyes, nose, and mouth glowing from within. The final piece to the scarecrow's look was a floppy, dusty, well-worn, brown fedora.

Sirius had a bit of a flashback to the night James, Remus, and Jack had broken him out of Azkaban. His memories were a bit fuzzy, almost dream-like, but he did remember a certain Pumpkin King in scarecrow form fighting Dementors and winning. That was what this scarecrow reminded him of, but friendly-looking instead of scary.

"Good morning!" the scarecrow said in a bright, friendly tone as he reached them. His voice was a little on the deep side and had an accent that Sirius couldn't place. "How are you folk this fine morning?"

"Oh… fine?" Sirius answered, petting Harry's hair to calm his Godson. "Wasn't expecting to run into anyone out here, we're new to the area. I… don't think I've seen you around Halloween Town?" He said the last part questioningly as Sirius hadn't gotten out as much while recovering.

"I don't leave the fields often," the scarecrow said. "On Halloween night, I usually have a party with my friends at a haunted house but I'm usually here otherwise. Oh, forgive me, where are my manners. I'm Dante, at your service." The scarecrow gave them a sweeping bow.

Sirius grinned as he heard Harry giggle and relax under his hand, his sweet god pup has decided that the scarecrow, Dante, wasn't all that scary and seemed pretty nice.

"I'm Harry," Harry said as he came closer.

"I'm Winnie!" Winnie said glued to Harry's side, grinning widely up at Dante her tail wagging.

"And I'm Sirius," Sirius finished off, shaking Dante's hand.

"I'm very pleased to meet all of you, I don't get many visitors out here," Dante said, a grin spread out over his pumpkin head.

"You live out here by yourself?" Harry asked. "Aren't you lonely?"

"I see my friends often," Dante assured Harry as he knelt down to Harry and Winnie's level. "And the crows keep me company. So it is not so lonely."

"You live out here?" Winnie asked.

"I take care of the fields; it's a very rewarding job. I grow the corn maze and grow the most amazing pumpkins for the yearly Halloween celebration," Dante explained, one arm outstretched to show off the surrounding area. The kids excitedly asked Dante about the different fields and his job while Sirius watched amused. It occurred to him a few minutes later, as the questions wound down, that Dante might know the area pretty well.

"Hey, you know everything around here, right?" Sirius asked once he got Dante's attention again.

"I like to think so," Dante said ask as he stood, brushing dirt and grass from his clothing. "I do move around a lot."

"We're looking for a good tree for a treehouse," Sirius said.

"I believe I might know an area you can look," Dante said then waved for them to follow. "This way!"

Dante led Harry, Winnie, and Sirius down a winding path across the fields. The scarecrow delighted in showing the two curious children various places along the way that they might want to explore later and pointed out other citizens of the holiday world. Many were other scarecrows that like Dante watched over the fields but there was also the Behemoth, the fat zombie of a hillbilly killed many years ago with a hatchet to the head, said hatchet was still buried deep in his skull. The Behemoth moved about the pumpkin patch taking care of the growing mostly orange gourds.

At one point they passed a figure dressed in black, complete with a flowing cape, riding an equally black horse. The creepiest thing about this man was the fact he had no head. Sirius swallowed nervously and pulled Harry and Winnie closer to him, he was sure the man was a dullahan. The headless horseman stopped briefly to speak to Dante to ask about the pumpkins growing that year and to assure that one would be set aside for him to use for his yearly ride to scare then rode off soon afterward.

"Who was that?" Harry asked once the dullahan was gone.

"Just the headless horseman, he likes to ride around the countryside with a flaming pumpkin once a year, I hear he's very popular the human world," Dante said. "Now, come this way, we're almost there." The scarecrow turned down a little-used dirt path and lead the way down and around a hill. And there, in the new distance, was a little patch of forest that looked right out of a painting of fall scenery.

The trees stood tall covered with leaves in stunning shades of reds, oranges, and yellows. The forest floor was coated with the same leaves and the scent of fall filled everyone's senses as the wind blew.

"Cor… it's beautiful," Sirius said, reminded of the trees on the edge of the Forbidden Forest or the woods outside of the Potter estates when he visited with James after Hogwarts. It was the opposite of the spooky forests of the Hinterlands, yet fit in so well in this world. Harry and Winnie looked at each other and then grinned widely, sprinting forward to play in the pretty leaves.

"There are many trees here, there should be a perfect tree for a treehouse within the woods," Dante said. "Well, I should get back to work my friend. It's easy to find your way back but if you get lost, just ask one of the scarecrows for help."

"Yeah, thanks for the help," Sirius said. Dante smiled, tipped his hat a bit then walked away. Sirius watched the scarecrow leave then turned back to the pups, who were giggling loudly and tossing arm full of leaves up into the air. A grin crossed Sirius's face watching them, then he changed into Padfoot with a fluid motion, barking loudly as he joined them in play.

Soon all three were out of breath and lying on their backs looking up at the sky through the canopy of leaves. Harry caught a leaf as it lazily fell to the ground, holding by its stem and twirling it. He was reminded of earlier this year when his aunt and uncle had him clean up the yard after the leaves had turned and started to fall, ignoring that he was much too small to be using a rake to pull all the colorful leaves into a pile. Dudley had ruined the pile whenever he could, running through it and scattering the leaves. It had taken Harry hours to gather the leaves up and put them in a bin. It had been horrible and back-breaking.

But, he had also remembered hiding in the local park from Dudley and his 'friends', sitting quietly and watching as the leaves fell. He preferred those memories and the ones he was making now.

"Awwooo… think we can find a tree now?" Winnie asked sitting up, leaves sticking out of her wild mane.

"There are a lot of pretty trees here," Harry said, sitting up and brushing leaves out of his own messy hair. "One of them has gotta be perfect."

"Let's look, then!" Winnie said, getting up and shaking like a dog, sending leaves flying in a flurry. Sirius barked in laughter, getting up on all four paws and giving himself a bit of a shake. Harry laughed as he watched, getting up to brush dirt off the seat of his pants.

The woods were filled with all sorts of trees of shapes and sizes. Sirius could see oaks and elms and maples but there were so many that he hadn't a clue what sort of trees there were. Many were tall and skinny, some sort and squat. Yet none called out to any of them as the tree.

Up above, the jack-o'-lantern sun slowly started to sink down in the sky and a low thick fog started to gather on the ground as the shadows began to lengthen. Sirius was starting to think they might have to call it a day, Lily would murder him if he kept Harry out too late and he doubted Winnie's dad would be too happy either. They could always come back tomorrow, he figured. As he shifted back into human form to tell the pups they needed to start heading back, Harry exclaimed excitedly,

"Look at that one!" Harry was pointing to a tree in the middle of a clearing.

The tree was different from the others surrounding it, in fact, Sirius thought it would look more at home within the woods they had gone through the other day to reach the doors to the other holiday worlds.

Its trunk was large, the bark so dark it looked black with lighter flecks of gray and covered in knots and gnarls, and the trunk so wide around it looked like three or four of the nearby trees could fit inside. The tree's limbs were long and twisted, not a single leaf to be found anywhere, and spread out around like reaching hands.

The tree wasn't as tall as the others but tall enough that you would need a ladder for a short climb into the upper parts of the tree. Sirius walked closer, going around the tree as he inspected it. It looked solid and the way the limbs spread out, easy to support a small house built within.

In short, it was the perfect tree.

"I think we found the one," Sirius said as he came to stand behind the pups again, grinning as Winnie and Harry cheered.

((If anyone has seen the movie Ernest Scared Stupid, think something like that tree. Except there are no Trolls, evil or otherwise, trapped within))