Magical Art is the creation and suspension of a personality. It is not an actual person, instead it is safer to think of the character in the painting as a faithful recreation of the subject. The painting does have a form of memory, but those memories are separate and distinct from those coveted by the real life subject.
It is for this reason that it is safer to keep the painting separate from the wider 'society', for want of a better word, of other paintings. They are windows, for us, not them. Allowing them freedom creates the potential for desire, for want, for more. While there has never been a recorded case, there is the very possible that the creation could wish to create. It may sample so much that sampling can no longer be enough. My paintings are not a part of this society. Each of my creations has their limits, their slice of reality.
J. Lawson, Taming the Tapestry
Chapter Fourteen: Finding a Fence
Muggle art galleries, no matter how snobby they are, are always located in the centre of great towns and cities. It's a matter of convenience, even the rich can't teleport. This was not the case for magical ones, and was the reason that Daphne found herself, not in a vast city staring at a gorgeous marble building; but rather on the outskirts of Manchester.
"Is this really it?"
"Disguise is the illusion of expectation," Harry told her as he led the way down the dusty and muddy road towards a huge abandoned factory. The roof had long since caved in and Daphne wondered if she had even been alive when it had fallen into disrepair. One chimney stood tall and proud amongst a cluster of smaller, broken and stunted comrades.
"This was once an old muggle factory," Harry explained, "the Industrial Revolution was largely responsible for this country's success. We stand in its ruins. Thankfully, muggles are rather forward thinking and so this building has been allowed to decay and about fifty years ago it became the home for Eden's Gallery."
"Not much of a garden," Daphne noted. They had reached the large doors, the paint was peeling and the eerie sound of wind drifting through the old building. Somewhere a bird flapped its tiny wings, causing a gigantic cacophony of noise. The place looked like a horror writer's dream, yet inside Daphne knew that it would be lavish. If her time at St. Mungo's had taught her anything it was that appearances could be deceiving.
"I suspect they were attempting to be ironic."
He drew his wand and turned it on himself.
"What are you doing?" Daphne asked, not in horror but mild interest. She had learned just to accept when Harry started doing strange things, there was usually a reason and even if there wasn't there was very little she could do to stop him.
"I don't know if you've noticed, but I have what some may call 'a recognisable face'."
"The whole saviour of the wizarding world thing," Daphne nodded.
"Plus detective, I'd rather not alert them to our true reason for being here. In case the information finds its way back to our forger."
"And we're done before we've started," Daphne finished.
"Precisely." After a few moments of concentrated spell work he looked completely different. His hair was a dark red and his eyes a new shade of brown, rather than emerald green. His face too was different, instead of being defined and rather thing it was now rounder, his cheeks were slightly chubby too and the home several freckles. He looked more like a cast-off Weasley than Harry Potter.
"What do you think?"
"I would walk past you in the street."
With that he turned his wand to the door and tapped it. The iron handle glowed golden briefly, until it met the skin of Harry's palm and then it went dull again. It should have creaked as it opened, instead the door swung freely and with ease and the two were met, not with an abandoned factory, but with a large white room. The marble floor sparkled, golden frames gleamed on the walls, and small clusters of well-dressed witches and wizards gathered round various pictures in the octagonal room.
A gigantic staircase took up much of the middle of the hall, at the foot of it sat a large and imposing desk. Silver inkwells shone, expensive quills perched from their depths, looking more like ornaments than functional office stationary. Two witches sat behind the desk, one blonde and the other red-headed, but both looked almost interchangeable. Their smiles, plastered onto their face as soon as they heard the door, was sparkling and classy. Their skin was perfect and their faces were on an annoyingly similar level of perfection.
"Hello and welcome to Eden's Gallery," said the first witch, the blonde one, as Daphne and Harry approached the desk. Daphne was starting to have her fill of fake smiles and beautiful women for one day and it was barely even mid-afternoon. "Is there any way in which we can be of assistance?"
Daphne could think of a few, but none of them were fair or strictly legal.
"We're looking for a Mister Arthur Drake," the second witch's face stiffened slightly. The first witch looked utterly unfazed, however. Harry stood stock still, his back perfectly straight and his eyes slightly narrowed.
"Mister Drake is fully booked for the rest of the month, as curator I'm sure that you understand he is a busy man and so -"
"Too busy for one of his best clients?" Harry asked, taking a pace forwards and closing the distance between himself on the desk. He surveyed the two women with a stern glare, the kind that he usually reserved for murders or people who beat him at chess. It looked a lot less intimidating coming from his new face though. "Or would you rather I return to Joanne Greengrass without having seen him? She's in market for a new piece, as her advisor it is my job to see that she selects from only the most appropriate list, you understand?"
"I'm sorry, sir, but Mister Drake has asked to be undisturbed for the day."
Harry's lie hadn't worked. At least, not yet.
"I told you not to come here," Daphne snapped snidely, keeping her tone clipped and self-righteous. She gave a huff and clicked her tongue, folding her arms and becoming the model of impatience. "Arcturus would never give us this type of service. He respects his clients."
"Your mother insisted."
"My mother has no taste, you should know that by now."
Out in the gallery people were starting to look, the kind of sideways glances that damaged reputations far more than obvious stares. Someone hurriedly sidled up the stairs, desperate to not be seen.
"She insisted." Harry repeated.
"And what dear mother wants, she gets."
"It's my job to know what she wants."
"And it's mine to know what she needs," Daphne snapped back, strangely enjoying the odd path that this conversation had taken. Their muted fight was gaining attention, people loved overhearing things that weren't supposed to more than a shouting match in the street. "What is not on that list is being stopped by these pathetic excuses for witches." She waved a hand at the receptionists, the less confident of which was looking like she feared for her job. "Would you like to floo her? Or should I?"
"That really won't be nec-" the second witch tried to interject, but Daphne had already rounded on her. The poor woman practically wilted. It took everything Daphne had not to instantly apologise but carry on pretending like she thought the world existed only for her own convenience.
"Oh, won't it? Just like it was not necessary for us to meet with your curator today? I didn't realise my family's desires had to be filtered through you first."
"I'm sorry, but he told us that -"
"It's alright," a man's voice called calmly. The man in question was tall, with a hair-cut that looked more expensive than all of Harry's clothes put together and the kind of finely tailored robes that didn't actually drown him. He strode down the stairs with a quiet, almost unassuming air of confidence. A charming smile was shot at the receptionist, who by this point was clearly flustered and wishing she'd chosen to pretend to be sick rather than come into work.
"Miss Greengrass, my apologies," the man said once he had reached the desk. Everyone else in the gallery had gone back to what they were doing, apparently not wanting to attract the eye of the man whom Daphne could only assume was the curator. "My staff were simply doing as they were instructed, you understand."
"Instruction does not prevent intuition," Harry pointed out, playing the role of Daphne's mother's associate rather brilliantly.
"It's quite alright," Daphne said politely, in the way that her mother always did when the opposite was clearly the case. "But now that you are here, would it be possible to talk further in your office?"
"Of course," Drake smiled, simpering only mildly.
A dark look passed between the two witches at the desk almost as soon as their boss's watchful gaze moved from them. Idly Daphne wondered what kind of glare they would reserve for her and Harry when their backs were turned, she doubted it would be anything good. Drake led them up the stairs where he'd come from, letting Daphne and Harry set the tone for small talk and given that Daphne knew nothing about art and Harry hated idle chit chat, they walked in silence.
The office was spacious, with an unnecessarily large oak desk taking up only a tiny fraction of it. On each wall was an array of paintings. Some large, others small, all of them by famous artists. Daphne recognised the odd style here and there as something her mother would own. No wonder she loved this place.
"Please, Miss Greengrass take a sit," Drake's tone matched almost everyone's when they found out Daphne's last name and were trying to sell her something. It was: 'polite with eyes on your gold'. "And your associate, Mister?"
"Chesterton-Smith, Miles Chesterton-Smith."
"From what I could gather by you conversation with my assistants," Drake said calmly, as if people shouting at each other in his gallery was perfectly normal, "you were in the market for a new piece?"
"A specific piece, actually." Harry nodded as he and Daphne sank into the offered chairs. They were exceptionally comfortable, the kind of comfort that only a serious amount of cushioning charms could provide. "Though, I must ask that you keep our interest in this strictly between us, you understand?"
"Of course, I offer my clients nothing but the highest discretion."
The smile was devilish and the intense sincere. Places like this relied on trust. Promises to keep purchases secret if necessary, or to hold a piece for a particularly important person. A smooth word here, a calm assurance there could be the difference between a barren month and a prosperous one.
"The Lady of Paris." So much for subtlety.
"I beg your pardon? You realise that painting has been lost for decades, of course."
"We heard differently." Daphne chimed in. She couldn't let Harry have all the fun.
"Then I'm afraid you're mistaken, if the painting had been recovered the entire art world would be aware. It would be the discovery of the century."
"What are you suggesting, sir?"
"That you're crooked as leprechaun gold and that you know more than you're saying."
"I don't know what you mean," Drake said stiffly, "and, as for you Miss Greengrass, I really had expected you to associate yourself with better sorts."
The way he said it suggested that there was no worse insult in his entire vocabulary.
"I associate myself with the best."
"Pity the same can't be said for you." Harry added as he leant back on his chair, dark eyes scanning the room. He loved this part, having all the answers and watching his prey squirm. Daphne couldn't deny that it was entertaining. Sweat was visibly glistening on Drake's brow. His weasel eyes darted between the two of them. No doubt his heart was hammering against his ribs like a captured bludger.
"And before you ask, it's because I can recognise a stasis charm when I see one."
Before Drake had chance to deny it, Harry had already flicked his wand at the large painting behind his desk. It was of a man, his huge bushy moustache had been trapped in a moment of stillness the entire time they had sat there, but suddenly it bristled as he spluttered to life.
"Good heavens!" he roared good-naturedly. "What happened? Who are you people? Where's Deirdre?"
Another flick and the man went silent once more.
"It's neat trick, to make it look like a replica and then presumably sell on a forgery. I must commend you, art fraud is exceptionally difficult. Although, pick the right painting, find the proper idiot and a clever man like you can see an opportunity. So that's what? Fraud, theft, and potential embezzlement; depending on what you did with the money. I could go on, but I really would rather wait for the trial, wouldn't you? Much more dramatic."
"What do you want?"
"What we asked for: The Lady of Paris."
"That's it?" Drake asked incredulously. "Fine, there's not much to tell. A few rumours. I didn't believe them myself. I haven't seen it, you understand?"
"Who's the seller?" Daphne pressed, Harry left her to it. Every time he did Daphne couldn't help but shake the sense of pride that rose from her stomach. He considered her an equal. The man who hated everyone.
"Supposedly Matt the Rat, old-school fence by all accounts but I've had unpleasant dealings with him in the past."
"Then that concludes our business," Harry nodded leaping to his feet. "Thank you, Mister Drake. You've been most informative."
"My pleasure," the irony didn't go unmissed, even by Harry. Drake didn't bother to show them out. He just glared. Men like that hated having power taken from them, least of all by people they didn't know. Imagine if he'd known the truth, Daphne pondered as she followed Harry back down to the gallery and then out into the fresh air.
"You know this guy?"
"More than I care to."
"Think he'll help?"
"Me? No. I was responsible for his arrest ten years, funnily he hasn't forgiven me for it. But you? That might just work. If you're up for it, of course?"
"What did you have in mind?"