The Sugar Quill
Author: Sweeney Agonistes (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Minerva's Day Out: A Fic in Two Acts  Chapter: The Scene Is Set
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A/N: Thanks as always to Zsenya, whose comments this time had me grinning and snickering – sometimes at the same time. Lyon isn’t my creation; I borrowed him from the fantastic Susan Cooper. Oxford doesn’t belong to me, either, although I wish I belonged to it…




Theron Dumbledore idly drew his pen across the page, not paying any attention to the four texts open in front of him. He missed his quill, but it would have been rather out of place in the Bodleian Library, even though he had made sure he’d tucked himself away in a hidden corner, with a few Aversion Charms cast for good measure. Stretching, he blew out a quick sigh, remembering how Minerva’s shoulders had drooped when he left the house; she had turned around, thinking he wouldn’t see.

He figured that leaving her to herself would be good, at least at first. Running a hand through his dark hair, he scowled down at the books lying open on the table. Knowing Minerva, she was upset and trying to hide it, and he didn’t know of anything he could do to make her feel better.

Theron loved his young wife, and he didn’t like seeing her hurt. He knew that he could provide an ear and a shoulder, could soothe her to the best of his abilities. And he would, because he loved her. He just wished he could do more.

A shadow fell across his table. He looked up. “Lyon?”

The man nodded, his wild, wiry white hair bowing with the rest of the head. “Dumbledore.”

Theron smiled to himself; Lyon was a welcome distraction. “Care to sit?”

Lyon took a seat, collapsing his tall, bony frame in a strangely graceful manner. “What are you working on today?”

He waved a hand at the texts in front of him. “Research for work – there’s a patient on the ward who’s not responding to our usual methods, and I’m looking for new ideas.”

“They didn’t give you any problems getting in here?”

“None whatsoever – thanks for that.” Lyon had used his considerable influence to ease him into the Bodleian, since gaining entrance was difficult if one wasn’t a student or don. Not like Lyon, who had been a part of the St. John’s College Senior Common Room for years. “Are you not working today?”

Lyon said lazily, “Between lectures at the moment – I have two hours before my next. I decided to drop in to see if you’d like to take a break and have lunch.”

Theron reached forward and shut the text closest to him. “I haven’t had food in what seems like years.”

His companion reached forward and shut the others, a small smile playing on his craggy, shadowed face. “Let’s go, then.”




Sitting over a pile of fish and chips in the Eagle and Child, Theron found himself listening to one of Lyon’s tales about an archaeological discovery he’d made in the Yucatan. To be truthful, he couldn’t quite imagine Lyon in the Yucatan – concealing that white hair under any sort of pith helmet or other such hat seemed far-fetched, and Lyon was the sort of person who was so austerely academic that one couldn’t think of him as being able to thrive anywhere outside Oxford.

Thriving made him think of Minerva – he wondered how she was holding up. At that moment, sitting and half paying attention to a not-quite-implausible story, poking at chips that tasted rather like cardboard, and having to deal with the knowledge that he had gotten very little work done today, he suddenly wanted nothing more than to be at home with her, resting and – basking was a little strong, but it was the closest word he could think of – in her presence. And if she needed him, he would be there. They played off of each other, and he knew it.

“…and then the pygmies came out, formed a string quartet, and started teaching us the minuet.” Theron came back to the conversation at that apparent non sequitur. Lyon raised one bristly eyebrow with an ironic half-smile, and Theron found himself feeling much like a student who had made a fatal error during a tutorial.

“I’m sorry, Lyon…my mind was elsewhere.”

“Obviously,” commented Lyon with a cynical sort of acidity. “And as any hope for a real conversation we might still have likely depends on where your mind was, I’d appreciate it if you came out with it.”

Lyon’s bark was a great deal bigger than his bite, and Theron knew that his acerbic tone was a cover-up for his real desire to know what the problem was. “I told you that Minerva had applied for that position at Obscurus Books?”

Lyon nodded. Theron continued, “They owled her back this morning – a brief and very pointed rejection letter. The fifth one this week.” Lyon winced. Theron laughed. “That was pretty much her reaction, only she doesn’t quite…well, she doesn’t want me to see her reaction.”


Theron poked the chips in front of him idly. “She was rather upset this morning, but she only showed it when she thought I wasn’t looking. I don’t know why she wants to try and hide it – it’s understandable that she’d be upset, after all – but I suppose…I suppose I’m worried that I can’t do very much for her.”


“Beyond the obvious, I mean. I can do the normal nice things, but I can’t restore her faith in her abilities – which is what she really needs.”

Lyon rumbled an acknowledgment. Tearing at his fish, he appeared much like his namesake. Theron waited, knowing that he was turning the situation over in his head – Lyon almost always had excellent advice. In the interim, he methodically attacked his own fish.

It wasn’t that this job was necessary for their survival, because it wasn’t. Minerva just liked to edit. She liked living in the world of books. He knew that to have a bit of influence in someone else’s creation, no matter how small, was something that she had always wanted. They both knew that she was good at editing, and she loved it – she didn’t want to work at publishing houses for the money. That was why those five flat rejections had hurt so much. Editing made her happy, and the fact that those in power at the presses didn’t think she was good enough hurt her. And if Minerva was hurt, then Theron wanted to fix it – that was just who he was.

Lyon wiped his mouth neatly and replaced the napkin in his lap with an air of fastidiousness. “Well, Dumbledore, I must say that this fish is nearly decent – not at all like normal undergraduate fare.”

Theron really hadn’t tasted his fish at all, which meant that Lyon’s observation was accurate. “I quite agree.”

His companion picked up a chip and, as he gestured when he talked, waved it about in the air. “As for your problem, I’m not quite sure what to say. The solution seems obvious to me, but I’m not sure how you’d implement it – that would be more up to you.”

“You have a solution?”

Lyon shrugged. “An idea.”

He grabbed at it eagerly. “What?”

“A surprise.”

Theron was confused, and it must have shown on his face, because Lyon suddenly burst out laughing. “A surprise – create a surprise for her. But don’t let her know what you’re doing.”

He began to understand. “Something that would help her take her mind off of this?”

“Precisely. I’d suggest a day out – it’ll prolong the effects of a good experience, and the memory will last much longer.”

Theron grinned. “Lyon, you’re a genius.”

Lyon stared at Theron with a darkly impudent eye over the rim of his raised beer glass. “Geniuses don’t have to pay for lunch.”




He had decided to just copy pertinent pages from his psychology texts – he’d found a few ideas for some new treatment. Making sure no one was anywhere around, he cast a Copying Charm on the pages. As his quill flew over blank parchment on its own, Theron pondered his next move.

Minerva wasn’t expecting him home until five-thirty, and as it was only two, he had three and a half hours to fill. He thought it might be a good idea to use that time for figuring out what to do for Minerva’s Day Out, as he was calling it in his mind.

A day of Muggle adventures might not be a bad thing – adventuring in London, perhaps. Or maybe taking a punt out for the day on the river. Or maybe even visiting the British Museum – seeing things that Muggles had created over the ages was a sneaking pleasure of Minerva’s. Maybe even dealing with all the Muggle trippers in Penzance would be fun. Then they could go out to Land’s End and sit by the ocean for a while –

Theron noticed the quill had stopped writing, and he began to shove things in his briefcase. He had too many ideas; he needed to discuss them with someone. Dad would know what to do, and this was his afternoon off. He could be at Hogwarts by two-thirty, counting the time it would take to walk up to the school from the Apparition point.

Looking around once more to make sure no one was approaching, he picked up his briefcase, dug out and donned his cloak, and Disapparated.




Theron knocked on the door to the Transfiguration office, expecting to hear his father call cheerfully that the door was unlocked. Instead, he heard nothing, which surprised him – his father could usually be found in his office on his afternoons off. As the door was unlocked – it almost always was – he turned the knob and poked his head in. “Dad?”

His father was sitting on top of his desk with a stony, shocked look on his face. “Dad?”

Theron watched him bring himself out of his daze with concern. “Theron. Hello.”

“What’s going on?”

The elder Dumbledore adjusted his spectacles and blinked. “Armando Dippet left my office not two minutes ago – he had an interesting announcement.”


“He’s retiring at the end of this year.”

“Then that means – ”

“Effective September first of this year, I, Albus Dumbledore, am Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

Theron couldn’t stop a huge grin. “Congratulations, Dad!”

His father smiled apologetically. “I’m still a bit shocked.”

“Understandably – this is huge!”

“Quite. And, not quite as off-track as it may seem – ” he hopped off his desk. “I heard that Minerva got turned down by Obscurus.”

“She did – but where did you hear that?”

His father waved a hand. “Somewhere.” Theron knew that he simply chose not to reveal his source. “My first thought after, ‘Oh, goodness, I’ll have to move all my books up a floor’ was for the new Transfiguration teacher. Do you think she’d be interested in the job?”

Theron’s heart skipped – this could be the very thing to make Minerva feel better, as long as the proposition was handled correctly.

“I think she might,” he said slowly. “She wasn’t too happy about getting rejected by Obscurus and four other publishing houses within the space of a week.”

“No,” agreed his father, “I imagine she wasn’t too pleased by that. So you’d think she’d do it?”

Theron grinned again. “I really do.”

“Armando told me that I will be in charge of hiring my successor, as I can judge for myself a worthwhile replacement. I can think of no one better – I don’t know if I ever told you about the time she taught my Transfiguration classes one day here. Never spent a day in her life in front of a class – she was brilliant. I wouldn’t want anyone else.”

“And I don’t think she’d want anyone else to have the job, truth be told. The only problem will be treating it the right way. I had lunch with Lyon down in Oxford today –”

His father interrupted, “Really? How is he?”

“Ornery as ever. At any rate, he had a suggestion – arrange a surprise day out for Minerva to take her mind off her job, or lack thereof. Actually, my whole reason for coming here was to get your thoughts on the idea. What if our last stop was dinner with you, and you brought it up?”

The elder Dumbledore smiled. “A capital idea. What are you going to do the rest of the day?”

“I have no clue.”

The professor looked at the clock in the corner. “How much time do you have?”

“Around three hours.”

“Let’s get planning, then.”




When Theron Apparated into the flat off Diagon Alley that evening, he landed right in front of Minerva, who was curled in a chair, staring off into space. Her eyes were puffy and red. She quickly stood up and smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “How did your research go?”

Theron tried to be offhand. “I found a few things that might help.” He set down his briefcase and took her in his arms, noting with some concern the tightness with which she embraced him. When her arms loosened, his didn’t, and he said softly in her ear, “How are you, Minerva-girl?”

Her only response was a further burying of her head in his shoulder.

Theron kissed the top of her smooth black head, feeling a small wrench in his chest as she started to shake quietly. He rested his cheek on her hair, wondering if what he and his father had planned for tomorrow would be enough to pull her out of her self-doubt. It has to be, he thought. It has to be.

She pulled away from him, rubbing her eyes angrily. He looked at her, benevolent, but not overbearing. Gently, he said, “I’ll just fix dinner, then, shall I?”

Minerva nodded and attempted a smile – one that was a lot more honest than the one she had greeted him with. He thought of something else, something else that was a normal part of their lives. “Shall we play some after dinner? We haven’t finished looking at the concerto that Dad sent over a few weeks ago.”

“That would be fine,” she said. “I’ll just go find it.” He watched her carefully as she turned away from him; her shoulders were still drooping, but there was a sterner set to them than there had been this morning.

As Theron went into the kitchen, he began to whistle. She wasn’t all right, but she would be – and maybe she’d even be happy, after tomorrow.

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