Challenge Twenty-One: Winter Holidays Past
Title: Letters and Secrets
Wizard/Witch: Phineas Nigellus Black/Ursula Flint Nigellus
Word count: Exactly 500
Prompt: 27. jewelled quill and parchment
Summary: Ursula works on Christmas cards...and a little something else.
Phineas Nigellus Black prided himself on being a man of many excellent qualities. He was brilliant, witty, and also an accomplished liar.
What he was not, however, was patient.
He found himself reminded of this particular failing while leaning against the doorway, watching his wife compose Christmas notes. Her head was bowed over the desk, her face a calm mask of concentration, completely absorbed in her task. Completely oblivious to him.
He shivered watching Ursula's slim fingers trace the edges of a leaf of parchment. Shivered again as she played the feathered end of her jewelled quill across her cheek and neck, the peacock iridescence vivid against her pale skin. Apparently jealously was another yet failing he would have to add to the list, he thought wryly.
“Must you spend so much time on those letters? This is the second week you've spent shut up in your study alone.”
"Are you offering to compose a warm and friendly Christmas letter to the McMillians?" she asked innocently. “After the appalling tantrum Isadora threw when you refused to overturn her darling son's failing marks in Potions, I fear I am finding it difficult to find anything seasonally appropriate to say to them.”
“I am certain you will rise to this challenge as you do all others,” he said airily, then slipped quickly off to his own library before she made good on her threat to make him write out the holiday tidings.
A few hours later a scroll appeared in the fireplace and with a crackling pop exploded onto the floor. Breaking the seal he saw his wife's neat handwriting.
I have an early present for you.
Intrigued, he entered the study to see Ursula smiling. A small, green box sat in front of her. “Impatience seems to be a failing of mine, dear husband,” she said giving him a knowing wink. “I could not wait for Christmas to see your reaction, and I also know the brief life expectancy of secrets in this house.”
Phineas lifted the lid of the box. A tiny hedgehog blinked up at him. “A hedgehog?”
“Not just any hedgehog.” She deftly lifted the prickly creature and said, “Phoenix laughter.” Then, she sat the animal down on a stack of papers. The couple watched as the hedgehog, shuffled and sniffed thought the notes, then drug a piece of paper titled, “A Treatises on Phoenix Laughter in Dreaming Elixirs” off to the side and went back to snuffling through the pile.
“Your position at Hogwarts leaves you little time to keep up with your reading, so I devised a little helper to sort through papers. Tell it a subject and give it a stack of papers and it does the rest.”
“But that must have taken you ages to perfect.” He stared in wonder at the hedgehog, who, having finished its hunt, was curled up asleep on the stack.
“Well, yes, you don't think I would honestly devote two weeks to writing letters to people I can't stand?”
Author's Notes: I thought a busy wizard could use a magical "Google!"
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