Disclaimer: I'm not J.K. Rowling; I'm only visiting her universe for nonprofit fun and edification. (No profit is being made and no copyright infringement is intended).
Author's notes: Another snippet from Amends, or Truth and Reconciliation. Special thanks to Arsinoe de Blessenville, who got me thinking about wizarding art history, and A. J. Hall, who provided the subject of the portrait.
The portrait is unmistakably fin-de-siecle and equally unmistakably the work of John Singer Sargent. The young woman in the painting has dark hair, swept back from her face in the fashion of the 1910s, with silver ornaments glimmering in it. Sumptuous folds of shimmering green descend from a deeply scooped neckline decorated with snake motifs and reminiscent of the regalia of a Cretan goddess. The exuberant brushwork suggests silver embroidery on deeper layers of semi-transparent fabric, with an underlayer of shot silk. The costume is a riot of over-the-top orientalism, the high decadence of the 1910s somehow transported to the Lancashire moors.
The young woman's long fingers toy with a crystal pendant dangling from a fine chain around her neck, and something inside the tiny faceted chamber throws off a single highlight of bright gold. There's a beguiling, mischievous smile on her lips. Her features are sharp-cut, her eyes dark; the fierce aspect of a stooping falcon burns through all of the painter's efforts to gentle her into glamour. You can't look at her without thinking of the wind on the moors, for all the lush promise of the décolletage or the luxury of her regalia.
How did such a wonder come to reside in the gloomy formal drawing room at the Longbottom house?
Hermione looks more closely at the pendant with which the girl in the portrait is playing.
"That's not jewelry," she says to herself, aloud. "It's a vial of Felix Felicis."
The girl in the portrait laughs and gives it a little swing. "Of course!"
Hermione jumps back. "Oh, don't be startled," the portrait-girl says. "It's another of mother's experimental charms." She sighs. "It worked splendidly, but no one was interested."
Hermione says, "What sort of charm?"
"To enchant a Muggle painting into a wizarding one. I explained to mother that witches and wizards don't like impressionism. They're literal-minded and there won't be a knut to be made from this. But she would have this Mr. Sargent in to paint my picture and prove her point." She frowns. "And I already knew what sort of painter he was. Eighty-three sittings for one of his pictures, that little girl and her brother. No wonder the poor little thing was glowering."
"But I sorted him out," she says. "A dab of Felix in his tea each morning, and he was done in no time." She laughs. "Every stroke was just the right one."
Hermione is shocked. "Isn't that illegal?"
"Well, mother was quite put out with me when she found out. She had to Obliviate the poor man so he wouldn't be tormented by the memory of it."
"The memory of what?"
"Painting a picture where nothing was wrong with the mouth."
Hermione laughs. "I know a wizarding painter who's an impressionist."
The girl in the portrait cocks her head. "Oh really? Only after the Muggles have been doing it for at least a hundred years. How did he come by that taste? Is he Muggle-born?"
Hermione says, "No, it's a she, and she's a Pureblood, so far as I know. She's uncommonly fond of Whistler and Turner. We were at Hogwarts together. Luna Lovegood."
The girl shakes her head. "I don't know her. Which House is she?"
"She's a Ravenclaw. But you must have seen her around, if you have a portrait at Hogwarts?"
"Yes, I have, but I'm stuck at the gloomy end of a common room. And the other paintings get quite shirty about me passing through." She smirks. "On the other hand, it might be that I'm shooting through on my broom."
Hermione smiles at the idea of this rather elaborately dressed-up girl rocketing through Hogwarts on a broom. "So your broom must be in your other picture."
"Yes, it's a portrait of my House Quidditch team, so I have a very fine broom. And friends with whom to fly." Her expression brightens with interest. "Do you play Quidditch?"
Hermione shakes her head. "No, I'm just getting comfortable with flying." The girl in the portrait wrinkles her brow, and Hermione feels the need to explain, "I'm Muggle-born, and I didn't have a pleasant experience with flying lessons. And I've had to do rather too much flying in the war. I'm only now getting some… remedial help."
"Well, I hope your tutor is a Quidditch player. You can't really understand flying unless you play Quidditch, you know."
Hermione laughs. "Oh, you sound just like him! He played Seeker on his house team and he's just insufferable on the subject of Quidditch."
The girl makes a moue of distaste. "Oh, Seekers. They think the game is all about catching the Snitch." She grins; it's at the far end of mischievous, shading into predatory, which emphasizes her resemblance to a raptor. "There's so much more to it than that. There's strategy. And then there's knocking them off their brooms." Hermione laughs out loud. "Quite improves your prospects—and not just on the pitch. Not that you should accept a marriage proposal from a wizard just because you've knocked him out of the air."
Hermione goggles. "Is that a wizarding custom?"
The girl shrugs flirtatiously, and her ornamental robe slips down her shoulder, making her look rather more like Madam X. "I don't know if it's a custom exactly, but it worked out that way for me. Although it was always the ones I didn't want, arrogant popinjays like Apollonius stupid Malfoy." She quotes, mimicking the patrician drawl that Hermione knows all too well, "'Emily, my girl, you and I are the best breeding stock in wizarding Britain. It's only logical you should marry me.'"
"So you had Malfoys too."
"It's Hogwarts. You never get rid of them."