The Sugar Quill
Author: Little Winky  Story: Usurping Fudge  Chapter: Chapter One
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Chapter One


“Pleasure to meet you. How do you do?”


He flashes her a suave grin, showing off a mouthful of brilliant white teeth. Persephone says nothing, and watches as he casually pulls up a chair to join them at the table. He catches her eye as he does so, giving her a quick wink. Affronted, she frowns slightly.


She clears her throat, finding her voice.


“I’m sorry, what?” she asks, bluntly.


“If we are to win this war, Ms Pellyn, we require a competent Minister,” Dumbledore explains, patiently.


She sighs. “I know that, Professor,” she says. “I just can’t comprehend why you would choose to use me for this.” Or him, for that matter, she adds to herself.


“Trust me, Ms Pellyn, you are both well suited for this, and have demonstrated the necessary skills ample times before,” Dumbledore answers, smiling slightly.


He stands, and adjusts his robes. “Now, I trust you will both keep this matter private for the time being, so if you will excuse me, I have business to attend to up at the school.”


He nods his goodbyes, and heads to exit the office. “Oh, Ms Pellyn,” he adds as an afterthought. “A July election sounds wonderful, would you agree?”


* * *


To Ani, the world is simple. It is nothing more complex than a swirl of colour and sound. She is naïve, as many nine-year-olds often are, and content with being unaware of the turmoil developing outside her bedroom walls.


She sighs, and pulls another book from her shelf. She flicks idly through the pages, stopping to gaze longingly at the happy princesses on the arms of their princes. She is not sure which she prefers: the tedious hours spent in lessons with her mother, or the dull, lifeless moments of the holidays.


Three consecutive thumps sound from the room beside her, followed by a high-pitched wail. She pauses, a page clutched in her hand. Seconds tick by slowly, before her bedroom door is pushed open, revealing two dishevelled boys.


Ani regards them sympathetically, and purses her lips.


“What have you done now?” she enquires, becoming slightly amused.


The smaller one, Jiminy, removes a lampshade from his head, clutching it tightly in his fists. He coughs. “Fighting.”


He lets out small yelp as his older brother stands indiscreetly on his foot.


“We weren’t fighting,” Emmett states, as he sits coolly on the edge of her bed.


“Then how –”


“That, Ani, is none of your business,” Emmett interrupts. Jiminy nods fervently in agreement.


“None of your business,” he echoes.


“Then what are doing in here?” she asks, closing her book and placing it on the shelf.


“We knocked over the bookcase and we need your help picking up the books,” Jiminy explains, breathlessly.


Emmett glares at Jiminy. “You,” he states, “have a big mouth.”


Jiminy bites his lip, ashamed, and hangs his head.


Ani sighs, and regards the boys in front of her. Emmett is staring back at her, calmly swinging his feet as he does so. Jiminy has begun shredding the lampshade fabric, and is looking somewhat forlornly at his shoes.


“So, you weren’t fighting,” Ani repeats, slowly, “but you made the bookcase fall over?”


Emmett shrugs. “Wasn’t that difficult,” he boasts. “Lot of uncontrolled magic that one’s got.” He tilts his head sharply in Jiminy’s direction.


Jiminy looks as though he is about to protest, but thinks better of it, and takes a seat on the floor beside the bed. Ani frowns, seemingly confused.


“Why are you sitting in here then? Haven’t you got cleaning to do?” Her hands find her hips as she adopts a pose her brothers have affectionately dubbed: the nagging mother. 


“It’d be much more fun watching you do it,” Jiminy pipes up.


Emmett beams proudly down at him.


* * *


The clock behind her strikes nine. It has been a long day, and she is exhausted. Across from her, William has seemingly made himself at home; his legs stretched out casually beneath the table, tie hanging loosely from his neck.


She surveys him over the top of her jam doughnut. She is apprehensive of the task they have been given, and feels it to be slightly uncharacteristic of Dumbledore. She sighs, licking cream from her fingers.


“What a day,” William states, conversationally.


Persephone makes a non-committal noise in the back of her throat. Silence falls between them, and William begins picking at the label on his Butterbeer.


“I’m not going to do it,” Persephone says, bluntly.


William looks up suddenly from his bottle, surprised. “I – What?”


Persephone shrugs. “It’s not going to work,” she answers. “You’d never get the job, and no amount of planning on my part is going to help you.”


William feels as though he has just been slapped in the face. “You really don’t like me, do you?”


She takes a bite of the doughnut, purposely evading his question.


“I’ve heard things,” she says. “Rumours and the like.”


William raises an inquiring eyebrow at this. “Rumours?”


Persephone throws the doughnut onto the plate in front of her, choosing to ignore him. “You can’t honestly think the Ministry is going to appoint a twenty-something nobody– ”


“I’m thirty-five,” he interrupts. “And there’s a first time for everything.”


For Persephone, finding herself speechless is a rare occasion, and yet, she realises rather grudgingly, he has managed to put her in such a position twice in the last twelve hours. She frowns, saying nothing. She has not known the man very long, but she finds herself labelling him insufferable, and wishes for him to leave.


As though reading her thoughts, William stands and straightens his tie, readying himself to depart.


“I’ll be awaiting your Owl, informing me of your change of mind,” he states, formally.


Persephone stares blankly up at him. “You don’t honestly believe–”


“Don’t I?” he asks.


He retrieves his coat from the back of his chair, waving his arms about ridiculously as he shrugs it onto his shoulders.


“I’m not doing it,” Persephone replies, more to herself than to William.


William pays her no mind as he crosses the room, heading for the door. His behaviour puzzles Persephone to no end, and she often finds herself wondering just why Dumbledore’s preposition has had such a profound effect on the man.


“Why do you want this so badly?” she asks, softly. “What’s in it for you?”


William falters slightly, his hand hovering over the golden-embossed knob. He says nothing, ignoring her as he wrenches open the door and stalks through it, allowing it to close roughly behind him, the slam reverberating around the tiny room.


Persephone is left alone, staring after him, stunned.


* * *


Ani sits in her chair and waits, nose pressed closely against the window. It is long past her bedtime, yet she remains wide-awake. It is inevitable, she has decided, that should she sleep, she would miss her.


The street outside shows no sign of life. The trees remain motionless, the bushes undisturbed. The minutes tick past on the clock beside her, before the unmistakable rumble of an approaching car is heard.


Her breath catches in her throat, and her body tenses, as she sits forward on the edge of her seat. The vehicle passes, with no inclination of stopping, and she falls, deflated, back against the cushions.


It is hopeless, Ani concludes. Her aunt isn’t coming. Resolutely, she drags herself away from the window and over to her bed. Crawling beneath the covers, she sniffs, and wipes her eyes on the edge of her blanket. She got held up at work, she tells herself. Aunty Perse wouldn’t just forget like this …


On the footpath below, Persephone stares up at the house, in particular the little upstairs window belonging to her niece. The light has just vanished, the occupant inside abandoning all hope of her arrival. She curses her job, Dumbledore, the Ministry, and the coral pink heels she foolishly decided to put on that morning.


She lets herself in the front door, making her presence known to those in the kitchen.


Emily Pellyn, tea towel and wine glass in hand, pokes her head into the hall. She smiles warmly at Persephone.


“We’d begun to think you weren’t coming.”


Persephone sighs, removes her shoes, and winces at the sight of her blisters.


“So did I,” she remarks. “Is that brother of mine home?”


“Not yet,” Emily says, returning to the kitchen and throwing the towel on top of the stove. “Tea?” she offers.


* * *


The apartment is empty, bleak, and uninviting. Cardboard boxes are stacked haphazardly against the walls, illegible markings proclaiming their contents. Idly, he flicks on the light and weaves his way over to the moth-eaten settee, dumped carelessly in the centre of the room.


It isn’t long before the unmistakable crack of his brother’s Apparation sounds from the kitchen. He appears, looking expectant, hair thoroughly mussed and falling in his eyes.


“Did you get it?” he demands, stepping eagerly forward. His hand is outstretched expectantly.


“What, no hello?” he quips, jovially.


He is answered with an irritated stare. “Don’t play games with me. Do you have it or not?”


“Elliot,” he states plainly, displaying his empty hands. “Do I look like I have it?”


Elliot curses and kicks one of the nearby boxes. “What am I supposed to do now?” he questions. “Turn up empty-handed? Fat chance.”


Elliot takes a seat on the windowsill, running an anxious hand through his hair. He receives no sympathy from his brother, who has now propped his feet on a stray box and is inspecting his fingernails.


“I would have had it,” he admits.


“Would haves aren’t any good to anybody, least of all me,” Elliot says. “You had at least two good hours to get in there and out again before anyone turned up. What were you doing? And don’t tell me you slept in,” he adds as an afterthought.


“I had no such intentions, dear brother,” came the answer. He shrugs as he continues, “He was earlier than expected, and there was nothing I could do about it. You’ll just have to settle for tomorrow, won’t you?”


Elliot sinks to the floor disheartened. “You better bloody hope I don’t get killed for this,” he mutters.


A scoff can be heard from the settee. “Relax, you’re not that important.”


Elliot sighs. Somehow, his brother’s words do nothing to improve his mood.


* * *


The silence in the kitchen is awkward, Persephone decides as she swirls her half-empty mug. The soggy biscuit crumbs become clumped on the sides, and after a quick glance to see if she is being watched, she swipes a finger around the inside, collecting them, before surreptitiously licking it clean.


“That truly is disgusting, you know.”


Persephone arches an eyebrow at the newcomer and says nothing. He laughs at her, dropping into an adjacent seat. A cup of tea is placed in front of him as Emily finally emerges from in front of the sink.


“So, to what do we owe the pleasure of this visit, dear sister? Need money to bail that flatmate of yours out again?”


Persephone leans back in her chair, folding her arms. “Funny, Adrian,” she says. “Can’t a girl just pop in to say hello?”


“She was here to see the kids,” Emily interjects, pushing the plate of biscuits towards her husband, “who, if you aren’t aware, Adrian, haven’t seen you at all today.


“Nonsense,” Adrian counteracts. “Emmett was up before five this morning. I had breakfast with him.”


Wishing to avoid an argument, Persephone feels it necessary to interrupt. “What in the world was he doing up that early?”


Her diversion works. “He wanted to see the sunrise,” Adrian states plainly.


From the look on Emily’s face, Persephone can tell the other woman is thinking along the same lines as herself. “Are we talking about the same boy?” Persephone asks.


“My boy?” Emily echoes.


“The very same,” Adrian answers proudly. “Guess he’s finally taken an interest in the skies like his old man.”


Persephone laughs inwardly at her brother. “Showing that Ravenclaw spirit at last, is he?”


It is Emily’s turn to laugh, this time outwardly. “Heavens no,” she states. “If any of what Adrian’s told me about this warped ‘housing system’ that school of yours has is true, then Emmett’s far from a Ravenclaw.” She smiles fondly. “That boy wouldn’t know the front cover of a book from the back.”


Adrian reaches over and rubs his wife affectionately on the shoulder. “He’ll make his grandmother proud come September first, that’s for sure,” he says. “Slytherin material, young Emmett,” he adds as a means of elaboration.


The question is on the tip of her tongue, and Persephone longs to ask it, but a furtive glance in Emily’s direction and she decides against it. Oblivious to her sister-in-law’s fleeting look, Emily stands and yawns.


“I’m heading to bed,” she announces. “Ani has an appointment in London early tomorrow. What time are you leaving?”


For a moment, Persephone feels the question has been directed at her, before her brother answers, dolefully:




Emily sighs, pecks Adrian on the cheek, waves dismissively at Persephone and exits the kitchen.


“How’s she taking it?” Persephone asks quietly.


Adrian looks up from where he has begun tracing circles on the tablecloth. “Not well,” he admits. “I imagine it must be hard on her, not even having the faintest idea of what she’s sending her son into.”


Persephone thinks back to that morning’s briefing with Fudge, and it is with a heavy heart that she realises the double meaning of Adrian’s words.


“It’ll be worse once Ani goes,” Adrian continues, lowering his voice considerably, “and between you and me, I’m fairly certain there’s nothing she’d like more than for Jim to be a squib.”


Persephone gnaws on her lip slightly, feeling not the least bit sorry for her brother. “Mother did warn you,” she says finally.


Adrian doesn’t answer, choosing instead to drain the final mouthfuls from his mug rather messily. “So, what’s new at the old Ministry?” he poses, changing the subject.


For a simple question, Persephone decides, it is certainly a loaded one. There is much she can tell him, from this morning alone, yet she finds herself feeling apprehensive. She is unsure of the situation herself, and it is making her head spin to contemplate it. Dumbledore’s words from their meeting that afternoon float to the forefront of her mind, and she shakes her head.


“Nothing,” she lies. “Business as usual.”


No secret plots going on here, she longs to add, but holds her tongue.


“What about that fountain?” Adrian asks. “Looks to be a right mess if you ask me.”


She agrees, thankful that the topic is a little closer to what she considers a safe one. “Certainly is, quite like the mess the Harpies are going to make of Puddlemere this weekend.”


Adrian chuckles. “Now that, dear sister, is certainly debatable.”



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