Originally written for Minerva_Fest on Livejournal. The wonderful Tetleybag has done miracles as a beta-reader, hand-holder, and cheerleader.
St Mungo's Hospital, Dai Llewellyn Ward, June 1996
Augustus Pye was the man.
For months he had tried to live down the disaster of his Muggle Healing of Patient Weasley. His colleagues, who seemed to think that a day without punning was a day not fully lived, had been a sore trial. Pye had tried jokes against himself at first ("Great one, Pye, you have us in stitches") and smiles of courageous resignation later ("Don't needle the poor fellow, guys"). And now, finally, he had lived it down, with sheer, utter brilliance. No-one had as yet dared to pun about 'stunning' brilliance – not with Patient McGonagall still on the premises.
And it was by his handling of that same Patient McGonagall (or "impatient McGonagall", as she was inevitably called) that Augustus Pye had achieved more in the course of one brief morning shift than senior Healers had managed in two days.
"And how exactly, my dear fellow, did you set about it?" Hyppocrates Smethwyck had asked in the Daily Meeting.
Augustus Pye had smiled. It was a pitch-perfect smile that spoke of greatness and modesty in equal amounts. "I don't know exactly," he had said. "We just seem to get on rather well – it's a matter of attitude, I think. Having the right attitude."
Half an hour later, with an adapted shift schedule in his hand ("Patient McGonagall will be your special assignment; we simply must make the most of your bedside skills, dear fellow") and the text for his own input on his Yearly Appraisal already shaping up nicely in his head, Augustus Pye made his way to the Dai Llewellyn Ward.
And if the spring in his step was verging on the jaunty hop, who would blame him?
Patient McGonagall was resting. Not a complaint, not a single unreasonable demand had been heard since Trainee Healer Augustus Pye had taken charge early that morning.
Augustus grinned. It was a matter of the right attitude – and Slytherin House wasted no time in instructing its students. What was it Jeremy Higgs had said during Pye's first week?
"We Prefects are supposed to tell you never to get into trouble. Nonsense, of course. The main thing is not to lose your House points. This can be achieved with the right attitude.
"You'll find that quite often a solution to the problem presents itself – you were not Sorted into Slytherin for nothing. I'll now give you a set of fall-back options.
"If you get into trouble with Sprout: when in doubt, smile. Sprout is a motherly woman; she'll smile back. And you'll find that people don't deduct House Points from people they've just smiled at.
"In Flitwick's case, when in doubt, reason. Flitwick is a sucker for philosophy. Well, he's a Ravenclaw, isn't he? Go for 'doesn't that depend on the definition of …' or even 'but take the hypothetical case that …' Once you've got him interested, you're home and dry."
"And what do we do in the case of Professor McGonagall?" a young and eager Pye had asked. From what he'd seen of the Head of Gryffindor, a fall-back option would be useful.
"Ah. There you have a problem, Pye. Try to avoid the situation – trouble with McG will cost us points. The best you can hope for is damage limitation. When in doubt, say 'Yes, Professor.'"
So when Professor McGonagall had greeted him with a sharp, "Mister Pye, isn't it? I need you to do something for me," he had taken one good look at the thin line of her lips, and he had said, "Yes, Professor."
"When Madam Pomfrey packed my bag for me, she put in a book. Fetch the book, will you? The bag is in the left cupboard."
Pye had received explicit instructions that Patient McGonagall was to have no visitors, no books, no newspapers, above all no wand, and was to rest as much as possible. Pye was supposed to achieve all this by pointing out that if the patient's progress was satisfactory, a visitor might be allowed in a day or two.
Pye was not a fool. He had made his way to the cupboard with a respectful "Yes, Professor."
"If I am to make any progress at all, Mister Pye, it will not be achieved through staring at this well-maintained but otherwise uninteresting ceiling."
You're supposed to close your eyes and sleep as much as possible, Pye had thought, but he had said "Yes, Professor."
That was when he had known he had the Right Attitude. Old McG had made a little joke – clearly the result of his respectful cooperation.
"If it had been less well-maintained, I might have had the pleasure of fantasising over the shape of the stains – see what they resemble. But even that entertainment, I presume, would pale quickly. That's why I need a little light reading."
It wouldn't pale necessarily, Pye had thought. He had read quite a bit on Muggle psychology, and some Muggles seemed to see things in ink-spots that were … why, even McG might spend some happy hours on those fantasies. Would he point it out, in a respectful, professional manner? She might find it amusing. Then again …
"Yes, Professor. Is this the book, Professor?"
Hunting the Unicorn; Critical Perspectives on Wizarding and Muggle Unicorn Lore. A little light reading? Sweet Merlin. There was no way he could let her have such a book. Next thing you knew, she'd be asking for writing material. Healer Smethwyck would find out, and Pye couldn't afford to blot his parchment. Not after Weasley.
"Yes, Mister Pye. Please put it on my bedside table. I expect a visitor tomorrow, or the day after at the very latest, and I want to read some of those essays. My visitor, Professor Grubbly-Plank, wrote one of them."
Ye gods. When McG said at the very latest in that tone, there was no negotiation possible. Pye had to get her well in time. Which meant rest, rest, and more rest. No excitement at all. Pye had considered a few options. I can readily understand that you look forward to such an interesting visitor. But if we want to be well enough … No! Not 'we', not with McG. An appeal to reason, perhaps? You will readily understand that, given the seriousness of your injuries ….
And then a Slytherin Solution presented itself.
"Yes, Professor. It must be a fascinating book. But may I make one suggestion, Professor? If I were to put a Disillusionment Charm on the cover, it would be … considerably less noticeable. You would not risk being interrupted in your reading by Healers who …"
McG had agreed with a curt, "sound thinking." Pye had executed the Charm (it had felt more like passing an exam than the actual exam at Hogwarts), and McG had dismissed him with the instruction not to disturb her. "I'm supposed to get rest, and with all of you checking on me, this room is as quiet as Platform 9 ¾ on Hogwarts Day."
Pye had taken one last look at the Disillusioned book. As long as it was lying on the bedspread, it was all right. But if she would start reading it … if he would be found out …
The rest of the morning the Dai Llewellyn Ward had been blissfully quiet. Pye had made sure he was the one to check her temperature and blood pressure (not that there had been a queue of volunteers, given past experiences), and now, during the sacrosanct Resting Hour, McG was actually asleep. Or at least lying with her eyes closed. Only Pye, who knew what he was looking for, could see that she held a book in her hand, one of her fingers between the pages. There was a hint of a smile around her lips.
Looking forward to her visitor, Pye assumed. Some scholarly old biddy with whom McG could discuss Unicorn Lore. Rather suitable, really. Weren't Unicorns supposed to prefer virgins? No – that was lore; they preferred a woman's touch, but the whole virgin thing was mediaeval nonsense. Still – two spinsters and a Unicorn book. Fitting. And he hoped poor old McG would enjoy it. It was a rotten thing to have happened to her – she deserved a bit of fun. Depending on the definition of 'fun', of course, Professor. Jeremy Higgs voice echoed in his head. Wise man.
Thanks to Old Jeremy, Pye was a king. He was a god. He was officially the best thing since Merlin and tea in a bag.
Life was sweet – for a man with the right attitude.
Minerva McGonagall kept her eyes closed until the sound of young Pye's footsteps died away. He was not the worst of the lot, but she could do without another interruption. The book was a treasure trove of interesting articles. She would keep Wilhelmina's for later – after she had had a little nap, perhaps. Skimming through the table of contents and the illustrations had given her the most bearable and – yes – restful morning since the attack.
Ludicrous idea, to forbid books. So seldom did one have the time to just lie and read at Hogwarts. She would make the most of it during her stay here. And this collection really was most promising. A contribution by Charity, too. Muggle interpretations of the The Hunt of the Unicorn and the Dame à la Licorne tapestries. With full-colour illustrations, even.
They had one from each series at Hogwarts – replicas, of course. Given by a wealthy Muggle-born Old Pupil, one to be placed where they saw fit, and one for the Gryffindor Common Room "where I spent my happiest hours."
She had disliked the tapestry from the Hunt intensely and perhaps a tad irrationally. Exquisite though the execution was, she found the image of that magnificent creature in captivity, fenced in, tied down, quite disturbing. "But it might escape, that's the whole idea. Look, the fence is really low, and the collar isn't tight at all," Charity had assured her, and "It's an allegory of love – of marriage." In Charity's mind those two were firmly connected.
"Quite," Minerva had said, and she had relegated the tapestry to the wall next to the Room of Requirement. Students who found that room could do with a reminder of being caught and the consequences thereof.
The tapestry in the Common Room was lovely. "And it fits much better. Gryffindor colours," Minerva had pointed out.
"As well as a Gryffindor lion and a Scottish Unicorn," Albus had smiled. Trust Albus to know his heraldry.
It would be fun to learn the full Muggle backstory. Charity would have written it well; she was nothing if not meticulous. And there would be none of the annoying looks she'd get if Charity were to explain in person. Charity's views on spinsterhood were both maudlin and misguided.
Take their discussion on holiday plans, for instance. "Alone?" Charity had asked, horrified.
"Alone," Minerva had confirmed. She liked travelling alone, and often found that the places she loved and remembered best were the ones she had visited on her own. Free to do exactly what she wanted, to see what most interested her…
The Cotswolds had been lovely … and the cottage … even going to the supermarket had been fun …
She would have a little nap now … and then she'd read Charity's thingy …