"New project, Thomas?"
"It's for the Remembrance ceremony."
A paintbrush glides across the canvas, leaving a pale blue streak in its wake.
"Ah, I see. And what are you going to call this one?"
A confused look. "Why 'Six'?"
"Because there used to be seven."
The year he was sorted, there were seven new Slytherins. First to join the ranks was Millicent Bulstrode, who was a quiet girl despite her ominous figure. He remembered that she liked Astronomy, so he painted her staring out the window, a star chart in front of her on the table.
Across from her were Crabbe and Goyle. They sat straight-backed and tense, wearing nearly identical expressions of fear and confusion.
Draco Malfoy stood near the window, staring ahead of him at an empty space, apparently deep in thought. He was especially pale in the bright moonlight, without even a pink tinge to his tightly pursed lips.
Pansy Parkinson hovered on his left side, looking anxious. Her hand was half raised, as though she'd meant to place it on Draco's shoulder but thought better of it. She glanced uncertainly at Blaise Zabini, the last figure in the room, who looked back at her from a corner hidden in shadow. His outline was barely visible. One long fingered hand rested on the door, as though he'd love to push it aside and leave, but didn't dare.
But they were not the focus of the painting. The focus, in fact, was not on anything that was there, but rather on what was missing
"Seven what, Thomas?"
A pause. Then realization. "Oh. I see.
No one mentioned Theodore Nott anymore. No one liked to think about how he died.
"Was he a friend of yours?"
"No. I don't think he had any friends, really.
Theodore was pale and skinny, almost sickly looking, as though he seldom saw the sun. He kept his head down, so that his dark hair fell over his eyes. He always sat at the very back of the classrooms, even where there were empty rows in front of him. After a while, the teachers stopped questioning him, and the students lost interest in the habits of the anti-social Slytherin.
For six years, he never spoke unless absolutely necessary. Instead, while his classmates exchanged gossip, Theodore listened. He was well practiced in this particular art, and it never took him long to sift truth from the countless lies.
"Did you see… I mean to say, do you know how it happened?"
The paintbrush is laid resignedly down on the pallet. "No. But I know why."
Muggle studies wasn't much of a class his seventh year, but it did eventually take on a similar pattern. And then one day the unthinkable happened. An unfamiliar hand went up in the back of the classroom. Theodore's.
"I have a question," he announced. His voice was unusually smooth for someone who used it so little.
Carrow, who did not like to be interrupted, snapped back at him, "Well, go on and ask it, boy!"
Theodore paused, apparently thinking before he plowed ahead. "Isn't the Dark Lord a half-blood?"
Instantly, all eyes in the room were on Theodore, but he didn't seem to notice. "Because if that's true, I'm afraid I don't understand why we're following him."
Carrow was beside herself. "We? You dare to count yourself among our numbers after that blasphemy?"
Theodore continued as though he'd been uninterrupted. "Or maybe he is someone worth following--"
"You're damn right he's someone worth following, boy. Unless you've got a death wish."
"--in which case one could reason that half-bloods weren't actually below us. Or, I suppose, Muggle borns."
Something hanging on the wall over Theodore's head exploded. The class instantly turned their eyes back to Carrow, who had her wand out and pointed at the offending student.
"You will regret those words, you insolent traitor."
"No doubt I will."
But there's still no proof that he was murdured. It might have been illness, just like the Prophet said."
"It might have, yes."
Theodore didn't come back after Christmas. There was a small article the following week that said he'd taken sick and died. Most people accepted it, because in a time of war and rebellion it was almost a comfort to know that people still died for mundane reasons.
No one from the class was fooled though. They knew that Theodore had crossed a line that day that there was no coming back from. The Gryffindors took up his cause, asking questions whenever they could to agrevate Carrow, but no one ever pushed her as far as Theodore had.
The Slytherins might have acted in like fashion, except that they were afraid. No longer could they believe that they were invincible, as their number had suddenly fallen from seven to six. It showed on their faces, especially when they would glance back at the empty seat.
"Well, it's a very good painting by any rate, Thomas. Probably your best yet."
"Thank you, sir."
The brush is rinsed in cool water and placed gently back in its case.
"I think he would have liked it."