Portrait of a Wizard as a Young Man
A Naughty Love Story in Five Acts
Disclaimer: Not my characters. Not my pockets being filled.Act I
"Sorry to interrupt, but McGonagall sent d-mail asking you to meet with her at Hogwarts."
Harry Potter frowned as he looked down at Hermione's image.
"Is he still there?" he asked.
"Hang on," Hermione replied. Her face was soon replaced by one whose eyes were a bit more out of proportion with the rest of his face.
"Dobby is sorry, Mr. Harry Potter sir, Dobby would have delivered message to you direct but the Headmistress told Dobby to keep Mr. Harry Potter's location secret, sir."
"No worries, Dobby," Harry said. "She was right to have you deliver the message to the secured location. Did she say when she wanted to meet?"
"Yes, Mr. Harry Potter, sir," Dobby replied. "She asked to see you right away."
"Okay, Dobby," said Harry, "would you put Hermione back on, please?"
"Oh yes, Dobby can do that. Dobby can't wait to see Mr. Harry Potter again, sir."
The image blurred, and then sharpened back around Hermione's face.
"Hermione, you and Ron should go as well. I'll need five more minutes or so to wrap up my meeting with Griphook – I'll meet you there."
"Understood. Watch the rotation this time."
The image faded to black.
Harry sighed. While he knew that the chance of any communication being traced or monitored increased with message length, he was still getting used to the economy of Hermione's comments. He pocketed the silver mirror, and reentered one of Gringott's private meeting rooms.
"So what did you think of that landing, Jim?"
"Well, that over-rotation produced a much bigger splash then you'd expect to see at this level of competition, and I'm sure that will be reflected in the scores."
"And here come those scores now, ladies and gentlemen…5.7…5.4…5.6…Oh!…a 3.1 from Phineas Black, that's going to bring his average way-y-y down."
"Very funny," said Harry, as he gathered himself up off the floor and shook the cinders out of his hair. He looked towards Ron and Hermione, who had just "announced" his arrival out of the Headmistress's secured floo connection. "Don't quit your day jobs."
That comment brought a few catcalls from the office walls. Harry glanced up at the portraits, most of whom were still holding the white placards that displayed in numeric form their thoughts on Harry's landing.
"That goes for you lot as well."
The hoots and catcalls grew louder with Harry's admonishment.
"Please forgive us," Dumbledore's echo asked, with a twinkle in his eyes, "for seizing upon the opportunity to amuse ourselves. It happens so rarely in these dark days."
"Pay no attention, Mr. Harry Potter, sir," said Dobby, as he popped in and began to mend the burn marks in Harry's robes. "You did much better than last week."
"Thank you, Dobby," Harry said with a smile. He turned back to Ron "So what's the tally now?"
Ron walked over to a small piece of parchment attached to one of the office walls and added another mark beneath his name.
"That would be thirteen-nil," said Ron. "Better luck next time, mate,"
"Just warming up," said Harry, "Just warming up."
"I'm not surprised, given the number of cinders you carried in with you," teased Hermione.
That retort brought another round of guffaws from the former Headmasters of Hogwarts. Harry let it drop, and allowed Dobby to lead them out of the Headmistress's office.
He could have pointed out that Ron had an eleven-year head-start when it came to floo transport. But Dumbledore's portrait was right; they all needed more opportunities to laugh during these dark days, and if it helped boost Ron's ego a bit that he could do something better than Harry, well, that was fine, too.
The friendly competition was only two months old. Harry wouldn't have predicted that they'd have thirteen different visits to Hogwarts under their belts over that time. The only positive leads that they'd gotten in their horcrux hunt, however, had come from the ghosts that haunted Hogwarts's halls and the elves that worked in Hogwarts's kitchens. They had been surprisingly good sources of information; most remembered Tom Riddle's days as a student, and had been able to fill in some of the gaps within Dumbledore's timeline.
Harry was guessing that McGonagall had uncovered a new lead from her own inquiries into Tom Riddle's exploits; they'd been able to ask for her help on that topic without having to disclose the reason why. She usually was waiting in her office; Harry's curiosity was therefore piqued when Dobby led them down to the ground-level classroom that had been converted for Firenze's use.
They entered the forested classroom and found the Headmistress alone at a table set for lunch. Two things immediately struck Harry's eye. First, the Headmistress was unusually underdressed, wearing the kind of robe that was more appropriate for a bath than for a classroom. Secondly, a small potions laboratory had been set up behind the table, with five different cauldrons simmering over small blue flames. A large easel was set up next to the pots, holding a canvas that faced away from them.
The Headmistress looked up from her plate. "Guessing that Mr. Weasley would be joining you, I took the liberty of adding a few plates to the table. Care to join me?"
"Certainly, Professor," exclaimed Ron, who took almost no time at all to dive into a Shepherd's Pie.
"Oh honestly, Ron," exclaimed Hermione, "you would think that you never eat at home."
"Home, yes," replied Ron, in between bites. "Your kitchen, no."
Hermione scowled as she and Harry joined him at the table.
"So what brings us here today, Headmistress," asked Harry, as he began to fill his plate. "Finally corner The Baron and get him to talk?"
"Erm, no," replied McGonagall. "Something came up unexpectedly, and I thought you might want to exploit the opportunity."
Something clicked in Hermione's head as her gaze strayed from McGonagall's face towards the bubbling cauldrons and stretched canvas.
"Oh my," she said, "do you mean to say that the Master is really here?"
"Yes, indeed, Miss Granger," the Headmistress replied, with a bemused expression. "There was an unexpected opening in his schedule."
"Exactly who are we talking about?" asked Ron warily. He'd been silently trying to find any kind of link between the potions laboratory and McGonagall's attire that didn't involve naughty bits and Snape.
"Master Leonardo Rondino," replied McGonagall.
"Oh, Ron," admonished Hermione, "if you ever bothered to read Hogwarts, A History, you'd know. Master Rondino is the greatest wizard artist alive, and has been the official portrait artist of Hogwarts for more than a hundred years."
"That's it…," chimed in Harry. "I knew I saw that name somewhere. He painted Dumbledore's portrait, didn't he?"
"He did indeed," McGonagall said, "and as Headmistress it is now my turn to sit for a portrait."
"I can't believe it," Hermione said, "I've read all about him, and saw a retrospective of his work at the Tate two years ago. It was simply smashing."
"At the Tate Gallery?" asked Harry. "Isn't that a muggle art museum?"
"Of course," Hermione said. "Don't you know that over the centuries a good many of the greatest artists were wizards as well? I mean, there's DaVinci, of course, and Picasso, and Kandinksy…"
"What about some of the crazy ones, like Van Gogh?" Harry asked.
"Wizard," Hermione replied simply. "He was, in fact, the prototypical wizard master artist…living on the edge of muggle society, always broke, a bit touched…the muggles thought him mad and commited him to an insane asylum. They thought he was hearing voices, when most of the time he was just talking to his familiar. Field mouse, if I recall correctly."
"I've never heard of any of those blokes," said Ron. "Or seen any of their wizard art…Why is that? Why would a wizard artist paint for muggles?"
"Two main reasons," Hermione replied. "First, because that's where the money is. Sure there are always going to be a few wizard patrons to win commissions from, but there are far more wealthy muggles than wealthy wizards. Second reason is, well, how should I put this delicately…wizards in general, and pureblooded wizards in particular, are boring, and not much fun to paint."
"What do you mean, boring?" Ron asked, with a bit of indignation.
"Boring maybe isn't the right word," said Hermione. "Erm…static might be more appropriate. You see, Ron, artists are inspired by conflict, by struggle. Pain and suffering, and the human condition. Through their art they try to comment on the excesses or the needs that exist within societies. There always is going to be ample material in the muggle world, but wizards? Well, you tell me, Ron…how many starving wizards do you know…how much pain and misery exists within the wizarding world? Now, of course, I'm not saying there isn't any, it's just….well, great art is borne out of change, and the wizard ways have been much more set over the centuries."
"So all of the famous artists were wizards?" asked Harry. "What about that soup can painter guy?"
"Um, no Harry," she replied, "Not all of them. Andy Warhol was one-hundred percent muggle."
"A splendid primer, Miss Granger," the Headmistress interjected. "Of course, I'd have expected nothing less from you…Ah, here we are. Master Rondino, you've returned," the Headmistress said. "Any luck finding the fresh limpwort?"
"Si, it was exactly where you told us to look Donna McGonagall."
Harry, Ron and Hermione turned to see two men enter the room with dirt-covered tubers in their hands. The Headmistress had obviously been addressing the smaller of the two; a wiry old wizard whose silver beard was as long as Dumbledore's had been. His companion, in contrast, was clean shaven, tall, and curly locked. He also didn't appear that much older than they were.
"Master Rondino, may I introduce to you three of Hogwarts's finest students: Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ronald Weaver."
"It's an honor to meet you, Master Rondino," Hermione said.
"Thank you, I am very pleased to meet you all," the old man said, as he shook the Trio's hands. "This is my apprentice, Romeo."
The Master's apprentice gave firm handshakes to Harry and Ron. Hermione's hand, in contrast, was lifted up gracefully to Romeo's lips.
"Che bella fioritura…ti voglio eseguire bene."
Hermione lifted her hand back as her face turned beet red.
"Oy, what'd you just say to her?" Ron demanded.
"Erm, it was nothing, Ron," replied Hermione hastily. "He just told me that he…he likes to play music."
"Si… Eseguire per la prima volta, no?"
Hermione's blush deepened.
Harry reached back and took hold of the wand in his back pocket. "Well tell Romeo to mind his manners, before somebody hexes his musical instrument."
"Harry, be nice!"
The assistant turned towards Harry. "A translation isn't necessary, Mr. Potter. As for your request..."
"Come, Romeo," the Master interrupted, "we need to finish preparing the paints."
The assistant turned towards Hermione and stole back her gaze. "Si, Master Rondino."
The two men walked over to the potions laboratory, where Romeo began to wash and slice the limpwort root.
After Harry's eyes escorted the handsome assistant away from the table he addressed Headmistress McGonagall. "Professor, may I ask why you wanted to meet with me today?"
"Well, Mr. Potter," she replied, "this morning's session gave me the unfettered opportunity to mull over our present situation." She paused to take a sip from her glass of iced pumpkin juice. "You know that I've tried to respect your decision not to share what you were doing with Albus on the night he died…I haven't asked since that night."
"Yes, ma'am, and I appreciate that, and your confidence in me to make those kinds of decisions."
"Not a problem, Harry," the Headmistress replied. "But as I sat over there posing for a slice of immortality, I became concerned over what would happen if the information that you've withheld were to be somehow...well, lost."
"You mean if Harry was killed by Voldemort, more like," Ron muttered.
"Frankly, yes," she replied. "Now I suspect that Harry has kept you and Hermione informed, but it's true that the three of you often travel together, isn't it?"
"And it's also true that we'll be there when he faces Voldemort again," said Hermione. "I believe I know where this conversation is heading."
"Well I wish you'd tell me," exclaimed Ron, "because I don't see the least thing connecting our… 'research' with Romeo."
Hermione turned towards McGonagall. "You want Harry's portrait taken as a sort of insurance policy, don't you?"
Harry's face had turned pale. "You don't think I can beat him, do you?"
"To Hermione yes, and to you, Harry, a resounding no. While I have the utmost confidence in your ability to prevail over Voldemort, having your portrait available to answer questions should the worst happen would indeed be a kind of insurance."
"I don't know," mulled Harry, "to even be thinking about what would happen if I fail…"
"I think you should do it," Hermione chimed in.
"You do?" Harry asked. "Why?"
"Look at it this way, Harry," Hermione said. "Do you think that your parents were planning on dying when they made their will? No, of course not. They made sure they had a will though, just in case…because it would have been irresponsible not to have one given the circumstances."
"But how would it work…what would keep the portrait from falling into the wrong hands, what would keep my portrait from blabbing out everything?"
"Oh, Harry," Hermione sighed. "The echo preserved in your portrait couldn't do anything that the real you wouldn't do under similar circumstances. Unless, of course, specific instructions are spelled into the canvas, right Headmistress?"
"Yes, Hermione, you are right. For example, Harry, all of the portraits in my office are pledged to provide their full support to the Headmaster or Headmistress, however reluctantly they might have done so if they were there in the flesh. That pledge is bound within the painting as a type of wizard's oath."
"You mean to say that if the Board of Governors elected Voldemort to be Headmaster that Dumbledore's portrait would have to do his bidding?"
"Yes," McGonagall replied simply. "as would mine, once my portrait becomes fully animated."
"Well how does that process work?" Harry asked. "What happens while the person in the portrait is still alive?"
Hermione answered for the Headmistress. "Usually, when a person sits for a magical portrait, the echo that is captured has only the knowledge held by the subject at that time. Master Rondino, however, is one of the few artists in the world whose portrait echoes remain dynamically linked with the subject."
"You mean the portrait always knows what I know, even if I learn something after the painting is completed?"
"Exactly," the Headmistress replied.
"Well, not that I don't trust you, Professor McGonagall, but what would keep you or anyone else from pumping my portrait for information while I was still alive? Where would it be kept?"
"That would be up to you," the Headmistress replied. "The house elves will keep my portrait secured down in the dungeons, until such time as it needs to be…well….hung. You could have the elves do the same, or keep it someplace you think might be just as secure, yet accessible if need be."
"Well, I guess it would be okay…it's just that…"
Harry was interrupted by the Master's voice. "Donna McGonagall, I think we are ready for you."
"Excellent," was the Headmistress's reply. "But first, as we discussed, you will see if it is possible for you to work with Mr. Potter?"
"Yes, of course, Donna McGonagall," he replied. "One moment, please."
"Professor," asked Ron, "Why wouldn't it be possible for him to paint Harry's portrait?"
"Well," the Headmistress replied, "in order for the Master to capture a fully animated echo within the portrait, he needs to see a fully-formed and stable magical aura about his subject. It's rarely a problem for his more…mature…subjects," she said, "but a fairly common problem in younger wizards."
"How old do you have to be before your magical aura is stable?" asked Ron.
"That depends on the individual," she replied. "When I discussed the possibility with the Master, he thought that given Harry's advanced training and wizard skills he might be ready now."
"How can he tell?" Harry asked.
"With the help of particularly complex potion, Don Potter," replied the Master, who held an empty bottle in one hand. He walked over to the table and looked intently at Harry.
"Yes, Donna McGonagall, his aura is quite strong and well formed. He will work nicely…except…."
The wiry old man walked behind Harry's seat, paused for a few seconds, then returned to face Harry.
"Don Potter, if you please, would you walk over towards the easel? Thank you."
Harry stood up and walked over to the easel. As he turned back to face the group he caught a glimpse of the work in progress out of the corner of his eye. His jaw dropped.
"Yes, and now please, Don Potter, walk back and stand next to your beautiful young friend here."
Harry did as he was asked with a bit of shock lingering on his face.
"Harry, what's wrong?" Hermione asked.
"Erm…nothing," he croaked.
"It is most unusual, Donna McGonagall, but I think it will work. But she will have to pose as well."
"What?" asked Ron.
"His aura, it is…how you say in English….it needs Miss Granger's help."
"Are you certain, Master Rondino?" McGonagall asked.
"It is the only way."
"Wow," said Hermione. "How interesting…how exciting…what do you think Harry?"
"I don't think that's a very good idea, Hermione."
"Oh c'mon, Harry it's not going to hurt, will it? I mean…it'll be fun to pose together."
"No, Hermione," Harry said, "I really don't think it's a good idea."
"Pish posh, Harry Potter," Hermione stated firmly. "We'll do this together. We'll do it for Hogwarts…we'll do it for posterity…we'll…"
"We'll do it in the nude!"
You could hear crickets chirping in the forest, just before the other lion roared.
"WHAT?" demanded Ron.
He pushed back from the table and ran over to the easel.
"Oh. My. Sweet. Merlin."
He turned back to the others. "Will someone obliviate me… please?"
A striken-faced Hermione looked at Master Rondino, who simply nodded. She looked at the Headmistress, who nodded as she clutched the lapels of her robe more closely together. She looked at Romeo, who leering eyes suggested he wanted to clutch something else.
She finally looked at Harry, whom she'd never seen more afraid.
"Gryffindor courage?" she asked in a small voice.
"No, Hermione," Harry replied. "Ogden's. And lots of it."