Chapter 15: A Clean Sweep
The first week of the holidays passed in something of a haze. Neither Harry not Tracey felt much up to talking, both of them processing that day's events. They jogged before breakfast like always, ate, studied, but they were just going through the motions. Sally-Anne hadn't moved the attunement spell in the end, none of them had been in a fit state for complex workings, and Tracey's evocation remained difficult and weak. It wasn't until Christmas morning that something occurred to knock them out of their mutual funk, as during their morning animagus ritual Tracey felt the thump of a double heartbeat as her wand touched her chest. It was proof that her potion was maturing properly.
The Slytherins were housed in a two floor basement, girls on the top and boys underneath with first years furthest from the stairs. The stairs met at a broad mezzanine that doubled as a common room. She met up with Harry there after the dawn casting to find him examining a long parcel with confusion and curiosity.
"What's that?" She asked, plopping down next to him.
"A Christmas present, apparently," He replied. "Although it doesn't say who it's from."
"Maybe there's a card inside?" She suggested, leaning forward to snag her gifts from under the little tree. "It's not from me this time."
"This time?" He blinked, then narrowed his eyes. "The sugar quills."
"I know what it's like to be unappreciated at Christmas," She replied, studiously not meeting his gaze.
He gave her hand a little squeeze. "Thanks, Tracey. It was appreciated," He murmured, then looked back at the large packet. "I think I'll open yours first," He decided, putting it aside and taking the smaller, more clumsily wrapped package from where it was sat next to his knee.
"I'm going to guess that it's in an ink bottle box," He added, wryly, as he hefted it gently. "Just from the size."
"I think you might be surprised at what's in there," Tracey replied, wryly, watching as he removed the paper to reveal an ink bottle box identical to the ones their presents from Sally-Anne had been in. He opened the box and removed the gift, looking at it and then laughing as he placed the bottle of silver ink down next to him. Tracey hid her grin behind her hand then picked up his gift to her.
"And what have you bought me, Master Potter?" She asked, examining the gift. It was approximately the size of a wand case. "It's heavy."
"You'll have to open it and see," he replied.
Inside the plain brown wrapping paper was a walnut box with a hinged lid, which she opened to reveal a pair of folding Spanish fans on a bed of velvet. One of them had white paper vanes, while the other was made with dark green lace and silvery guards. She realised a moment later that the guards were actually steel. She picked up the steel fan first, flicking it open with a twist of her thumb and wrist, to examine it. The lace was worked in a pattern that showed the four founders battling a dragon in intricate detail, while the wooden spars were carved with a repeating geometric pattern, and the steel guards were etched with grapevines.
"This is beautiful," She murmured. "It's way too much."
"I've seen how you get when the purebloods are fluttering around putting on airs," He replied, quietly. "Pretending to be proper little noblewomen even if they haven't a knut to their own name." He paused. "Also, you can take the guards off with a pin when you're ready and carve a focus into the spine, and it's solid enough to use for self defence."
"You don't do fluffy, do you?" She chuckled.
"I'm practical to the core," He agreed. "Look at the other one."
She tucked the steel fan into her robes and slipped the paper one out of the box, opening it the same way to examine the vanes, only to let out a strangled giggle. "A fanology?"
"Not just any fanology," He replied with a cheeky grin.
"A fanology of insults," She peered closer at the list of movements and positions explained on the fan. She closed it then opened it again quickly. "You're tiresome," She grinned, and flipped it closed to tap her left ear, "I wish to be rid of you… This is brilliant."
"I thought you might like it," Harry grinned. "Alright. Let's see what this mystery gift is, then," He used his wand to cut the paper off from a distance, revealing a large box with a thin glass front.
"A broomstick?" Tracey tilted her head, lowering her hastily erected shield spell. "A Cleansweep Nine. They only came out this year."
"... Probably better than the one I have," He admitted. "Cleansweep is pretty much the best non-sporting brand, isn't it?"
"Reliability, stability, and gentility," Tracey agreed, quoting the company byline. "Who the hell would buy you that expensive a gift and not leave a note..? Oh, crap."
"If anyone was going to buy you a ridiculously expensive present for no reason other than 'because you're Harry Potter', they would have done it first year when you came back. Which means that this broom is probably a trap," She pointed out.
"We should get it checked over," Lash agreed. "Take it to Flitwick first, then I'll have a look."
"Not Snape?" Harry wondered.
"Charms are more Flitwick's area of expertise," She noted. He nodded in understanding and pushed himself to his feet, offering Tracey his hand. "Coming?"
"With you, not over you," She quipped, then pouted as it went straight over his head.
"... Lash laughed?" He offered, hopefully, which satisfied her at least a little.
The walk across the compound was chilly despite the constant temperature.
"If we were in Hogwarts, the ground would be covered in snow," Tracey mused. "Do you remember back in first year? The Weasley twins charmed all those snowballs to chase Professor Quirrel aro- Harry, what's wrong?" she frowned as he twitched.
"I don't much like remembering Professor Quirrel," He replied, softly. "I watched him die."
"Ugh," she pushed her glasses up to pinch the bridge of her nose. "Sorry, right. That was a thing that happened."
"Pretty much," He agreed, then pulled them to a stop outside the staff room to knock at the door. A sleepy-looking McGonagall answered a few moments later, wearing a knitted cap and a dressing gown.
"Potter and Davis. To what do I owe the pleasure at...?" She glanced back, squinting, into the room, "nine in the morning on Christmas day?"
"We'd quite like to know ourselves, professor," Harry replied. He had the boxed room on one shoulder. "Someone sent me an unsigned but extremely extravagant christmas present, and we were hoping Professor Flitwick would check to make sure it's not been cursed."
"I'll take it to him," McGonagall groaned and lifted the box from his shoulder with her wand. "Go find some breakfast. It's too early in the morning for work," She told them as the box floated gently into the staff room.
"Yes, Professor. Thank you," Tracey tugged Harry away gently. The door closed, and they sighed.
"Well, at least it's being dealt with," Harry said. "And breakfast isn't a terrible idea."