A/N: This is to celebrate my successfully having written 50,000 words during the month of November on an original novel! I am still, of course, writing said novel, but now that November is almost over and I've won NaNoWriMo, I'm ready to celebrate and will be alternately working on my novel and writing on this story as well. This chapter will be a bit different than the rest as it has some new stuff you might not expect, so I hope you all like it!
Disclaimer: Nothing owned, nothing earned. Entertainment purposes only! Thanks!
The Portrait of Sirius Black: Chapter Three
-A "Harry Potter" Fanfic-
"The highest, as the lowest, form of criticism is a mode of autobiography."
-Oscar Wilde, Preface from 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'
The next afternoon found Hermione watching an impromptu game of Quidditch. Ron, Harry, and Ginny convinced the twins to accompany them to Hogwarts, under the watchful eyes of Remus and Tonks, who were momentarily free from Order work and, for Tonks, Ministry work. After okaying their plan with Dumbledore, the twins immediately flooed Charlie and Bill, asking if they would like to join in the fun, but only Charlie was able to come.
Hermione was all set to stay at Grimmauld Place and continue reading, but Molly wouldn't hear of it. She listened to her friends for only a moment's begging before Molly practically ordered her to get dressed and go with them, shoving a picnic basket in her hands as she went. So Hermione followed the group, enjoying the atmosphere of being with friends and even enjoying the fresh air.
She sat with Tonks, who was amused by the antics of the Weasleys and Harry, while Remus walked into the castle for a conversation with Minerva and some of the other professors. It wasn't long before Tonks had joined in the revelry on a spare Hogwarts broom, laughing and distracting the twins and Ginny with her constantly changing faces.
When she was alone, Hermione pulled out the book that had been haunting her for two days now and continued to read it again, not noticing when Remus came and sat next to her.
"You're very intent on that book, Hermione," he finally commented, startling her out of her reading. "What is it?"
She handed him the book and said, "It's some excellent writing. I really like the plot and characters. I think my favorite is Basil Hallward." Her lies fell flat even to her ears.
"What are you thinking, Hermione?" Remus asked, genuinely curious. "You've obviously got more than just this book on your mind. What-oh, look, what's this?" He had inadvertently landed upon the pages holding the article.
Hermione grabbed for it, yanking it out of his hands, and then she tried to cover up her impetuous actions. "Uh, it's um, an article. From my hometown. Ah, my mom sent it to me. It's-it's about some of my old friends, and I thought I'd read it while I was here."
Remus raised an eyebrow at that and asked, "Can I read it, then?"
"No!" Hermione blushed and then said again, "No, um, it's really rather private. Besides, I'm sure you'd be bored reading about Muggles and their jobs. I mean, Maddie's doing a stint with the Opera and George is getting into show business, but it's really not that exciting." She babbled, pulling out some of the names of distant cousins and vaguely remembering that their jobs were actually somewhat interesting. After realizing what she'd said, Hermione mentally cursed herself for it.
A muffled scream and shout of "Ginny!" caused them both to look up, only to see an unconscious Ginny falling to the ground, having been hit by a Bludger to the head. Charlie, Fred, and George were flying fast after her, and Harry had just gone into a dive, trying to save her.
Remus and Hermione could both see that they would not be able to catch her, so Remus pulled out his wand, saying a quick spell, and froze the unconscious girl mid-fall, allowing Harry, whose broom was fastest and therefore closest, to gather her into his arms. Everyone flew to the ground where Harry, Remus, and Hermione sat with Ginny, trying to revive her.
"Huh-uh, what's happened?" She asked when they finally wakened her. Her eyes were out of focus, and she looked confused to find herself in Harry's arms on the ground.
"You got knocked out by a Bludger," Fred said, looking abashed and staring at her in concern.
"Sorry, Gin, it was my Bludger. Didn't mean to do it," George added, blushing slightly at his still addled sister.
"Come on, you lot," Tonks now spoke, taking control of the situation. "We'll need to get back. Molly will have a cow when she finds out what's happened. Remus, do you have that portkey?"
Remus nodded, producing an old green bean can that looked extremely dirty. Everyone circled round, putting hands out to touch the portkey before they whirled out of sight into the alley a block away from the Black house. Harry carried Ginny, who he refused to let walk despite her constant complaining, and the twins and Ron carried the brooms, making the whole group a rather odd sight to the few Muggles roaming the streets. When the coast was clear, they all pictured the home in their minds and waited for it to become visible so they could enter.
Once inside, Molly had Harry take Ginny straight up to bed, promising to bring them both some dinner, which Hermione thought was a rather amusing ploy to get Ginny to stay in bed long enough to check out her injuries. Charlie left for his flat, stating that he had a date and couldn't stay for dinner, something the twins found hilarious. They also left a moment later with the excuse that there was a new addition to the Skiving Snackboxes they were working on that required their attention.
Remus and Tonks went with Molly to make sure Ginny was all right, but it wasn't long before the three of them were back in the kitchen, Molly working on dinner while Remus and Tonks sat at the table and talked to one another in quiet tones. Ron seemed at loose ends and wound up sitting in the kitchen with them, not sure of his welcome in his sister's room and afraid to incur her wrath when she was hurt. Hermione smiled at this; it gave her a chance to head back to the library.
Once there, she started to sit down, only to realize there were more books she hadn't glanced over. Debating about reading the Wilde book and deciding she might find something more substantial to work with if she looked at some of the other books, Hermione decided to look at the one bookshelf she hadn't touched. It was on the far end of the library in the darkest corner, and it contained, to her eyes, very few books that were not Dark. She tread quietly and cautiously close, wondering if she might open a book and immediately regret it, but that thought made her laugh. Hermione Granger had never met a book she regretted reading. She wasn't about to start now.
Starting at the top shelf, she began to glance at the titles. Things like Subverting Werewolves, which she wrinkled her nose at and wondered how Sirius could keep such a title, and The Practice of Vamping: Tricks of the Trade for the Frustrated Vampire made her curious but not enough to take them out. Other Dark texts looked entirely unsuitable to her nervous eyes, and she continued her perusal to the second shelf.
At the left hand of the shelf, something seemed a bit out of place. The book in question stuck out further than the rest of the books on the shelf, so Hermione reached out a tentative hand to push it back in. Her obsessive compulsive nature demanded order, and she was going to have it, Dark text or not. But when she tried to push the book back in, she found she couldn't. It would not go further in.
Pulling it out slightly to see if it were longer than the rest, she noticed that there was another book behind it, a smaller one that kept it from being put in its place. She yanked the book out and was about to shove the rest of them over to put it back when she noticed the title of the book.
In slightly upraised, gold calligraphy, she read On the Incanting of Portraits Dedicated to Reviving Life. Hermione's brown eyes widened to the size of small saucers and she stared, shocked for a moment. She regained her wits when the book she was holding fell from her nerveless fingers, opening and emitting a rather high-pitched whistle. Swiftly leaning over, she grabbed the book by its spine, slamming it shut to stop the noise; then she quickly exchanged it for the new one.
The front of the book had the same inscription with no author's name. Simply gold calligraphy on black leather, and she immediately felt a pull to it that she couldn't explain. Opening the book, she saw that it was not, as she originally thought, a published book. Or at least, it didn't appear to be so as it had lined pages with the cultured scrawl of the author flaring across, including spots of ink that had splattered on the pages and mistakes that were scribbled over. She flipped back to the first page where she reread the title and then saw the words "By Harry Wotton" in black ink.
Her heart clattered in her chest, and she wondered if this could really be the same man as the Lord Henry Wotton from her book. She flipped a page and read:
I write this book for my friend, Dorian Gray. I also write it in acknowledgment that it is my fault Basil Hallward died. Indeed, it is my fault Alan Campbell committed suicide. On hindsight, I suppose I must also admit that I caused the untimely death of Miss Sibyl Vane as well, and with that knowledge, I must claim the fault for her brother, James Vane's death as well.
I write this book to elaborate on my own experiments in charming portraits. Basil Hallward, Virgil Stooksbury, Argus Filch I, Bailey Knight, Sera Sheffield, and I worked on various charms that would inevitably raise a person to life again through portraits. I regret to say that none of these fine wizards and witches ever got to see the fruits of their labor realized.
This book is the culmination of my projects, from the beginning of our work together, to my individual work following most of their deaths. The insanity our charms caused in both Argus and Sera can be attributed to Virgil's mistaken Latin; however, the results of their continued insanity can be attributed to me.
I regret only that I did not stop the pain these charms caused before it was too late.
Charming portraits requires a delicate balance of knowledge and emotion; it was for that very reason that we left off our research when Bailey and Virgil began to fight in earnest. To adequately charm a portrait to represent a wizard's personality takes great knowledge in the one producing the charm and great patience in the one whose personality is being mimicked. It must be said, therefore, that in order to produce a stronger charm, one must have intimate knowledge of what is required to charm a portrait in the traditional magical way.
In addition, caution should be shown in trying to replicate any reviving charms as it can be extremely deadly to the wizard or witch producing the charm. The charms I discovered as a result of my own experimentation have given wizards a way to revive those who are dead, to bring them back to life once more. This is an exacting charm that requires not only great patience but also a great store of emotion. However, I will explain more about that in subsequent chapters.
My greatest regret in discovering this charm is that I was unable to use it on my kind friend, Dorian Gray. The charm, alas, does not work on Muggles. Bear it well, reader, that this is not child's play. If you attempt any of these charms, be forewarned that you will either succeed beyond your wildest dreams or fail in such a way that you will be broken beyond repair.
It was signed with the name Lord Henry Wotton and had a seal of wax dripped upon it to make it official; Hermione skimmed her fingers over the page and felt the slight upraised portion of the seal, eyes rereading the acknowledgments above.
She sank into her chair, having crossed the room while reading, and eagerly turned the page, only to slam the book shut when she heard the click of the door opening.
"Ah, Miss Granger," Snape's silky tones flowed into the room, and the professor walked unsteadily inside. "I should have expected to see you in here. Well, no matter."
The man crossed to one of the bookshelves and began to peruse it with interest. Hermione held back a sigh of impatience and looked at him. He looked much better than he had two nights ago. However, his skin was much paler than she'd seen it before, despite its pale hues from his life in the Hogwarts dungeons. He turned in profile to her as he pulled a book from the shelf, and she saw a long cut along the left side of his face, trailing from his temple to his jaw. The robes he wore were two sizes too large, and she wondered if they were borrowed from someone. Perhaps Dumbledore?
The man turned to face her and walked to the chair on the other side of her small table, book in hand. "I'm sure you won't mind if I join you for a bit of light reading," he attempted to sneer, giving her his patented glare.
"Are you supposed to be up yet?" She could have smacked herself for asking when he glared even harder, daring her to speak again.
"I'm afraid Molly Weasley does not understand my need to move and get out," he responded, looking sourly at the floor. "I have agreed to remain in the home until Poppy clears me to go back to the school, but Molly cannot hope to confine me to a bed and not have me hexing her every time she enters the room." His sour look was replaced by a small smirk that made Hermione shiver slightly.
Nodding at him, Hermione decided silence was the better course of valor in this situation and slowly pulled a large book from the stacks that kept her slightly shielded from the professor's line of sight. Opening it to a random page, she waited until Snape did the same and then carefully pulled the leather-bound journal from its place crammed into the seat between her body and the arm of the chair. She settled the journal on top of the book for safekeeping and opened it back to the first chapter, titled 'On Understanding Basic Portrait Charms.'
The very basic charm used on wizard portraits has two effects. First, it mimics the personality of the subject, and second, it allows the portrait to share memories of the subject. This gives the portrait the surface-level knowledge necessary to speak and act like the subject. In addition, the basic charm also gives the portrait speech and movement necessary to interact with other portraits and with wizards.
The ability to mimic the personality is something most wizards do not understand. This is because the charm uses very few words to create the mimicking effect, and it must be performed by one wizard on another. In fact, the entire series of incantations used in the charm must be performed within a small radius of the portrait in question.
Once a painted portrait has been completed, the incantation is made while the paint is drying and must be finished before the last of the paint dries in order to be effective. The subject of the portrait sits directly to the left of the portrait while the charmer stands directly in front of both portrait and subject. The wand positioning is very specific; with one small flaw, the entire incantation can be disrupted and cause it to fail.
As the incantation is said, the Latin used to mimic the subject's personality causes the wizard in question to fall into a kind of trance, from which he will not be awakened until the end of the incantation. The words used force the subject to relive some of his most memorable moments, allowing for various facial expressions, mannerisms, and quirks to be apparent to the charmer. These personality traits are sent directly to the portrait with a flick of the wrist.
Following the words used in the personality mimicking, the charmer then incants the words used to withdraw and plant memories. These words add an extra layer of mimicry to the portrait, giving it even more lifelike tendencies. In addition, they withdraw a majority of the subject's memories, mainly those that have had a hand in making the wizard who he is. Once this part of the spell has been completed, the charmer once again flicks his wrist to the portrait, allowing the memories to flow into it.
The combination of these two parts of the spell will make the portrait glow green for a moment. While most wizards have the unhappy tendency of associating green with the color of Avada Kedavra, I have the pleasant notion of associating it more with the color of a reviving portrait.
Following the first parts of the spell, the charmer finishes with the Locomotor incantation, subtly different from the Locomotor Mortis spell but with the same basic principles. This part of the incantation twists the Locomotor to allow free range of motion and basic willpower to the portrait, creating a half-living, half-magical portrait that can be allowed to mimic the subject for decades after his or her death.
When the spell is finished, it will give the portrait a gold glow, indicating it has been completed. The charmer releases the spell from its subject, thus allowing the subject to rise from his trance-like state, and the portrait retains the gold glow until the last of the paint has dried, at which point the portrait will be able to move, speak, and otherwise interact with others.
It is important to note that most wizards also add the additional death clause charm to the incantation of their portraits, preferring not to be bothered with talking portraits until after they have died. This clause links a bit of the subject's blood with the portrait in a sort of magical will that makes the portrait awaken upon the subject's death.
The death clause is a tricky bit of incanting, but most accomplished charmers can do it with ease. Unfortunately, very few wizards find charmed portraits of themselves to be beneficial until after their deaths. I have discovered they find it a strange way of retaining life despite their bodily deaths, and I have subsequently refused to incant any portraits of myself. Indeed, I have burned all portraits ever painted of myself and will not allow any more to be made.
A cleared throat had her looking into Snape's curious eyes. Apparently he had finished reading and was simply sitting and resting. "May I inquire as to what has you so intrigued, Miss Granger?" His voice was patronizingly saccharine sweet, and she grimaced.
Glancing at the book underneath the journal, she nearly groaned at what she saw. "Well," she began, pulling it out to show it to him, "it's a book of Muggle children's stories. It's by a woman named Beatrix Potter." She stifled a grin at the immediate frown that marred her professor's features. "This story is one about a rabbit named Peter Rabbit; it's quite cute. I could- I could, ah, read it to you if you'd like...?"
Her eyes grew wide with fake innocence that Snape read all too easily. "That will not be necessary. I have to admit to some concern, though. Your reading preferences at Hogwarts do not generally run to such plebeian works. Perhaps Black is to be blamed considering it is his library? You can't expect much from one such as him."
Hermione scowled at her professor, itching to tell him off for speaking ill of the dead, but a look at the smirk on his face stopped her. She would only make him mad, and he might try to leave, and then Molly would have her head.
"I grew up on books like this, Professor Snape," she finally said. "They are rather comforting to me, and to be quite honest, I am happy that Sirius saw fit to add them to his library."
Snape scoffed at that and then sniffed. She was about to comment when he stood abruptly, nearly keeling over with the effort. Hermione stood, wondering if she should offer him some support when he growled, "Don't touch me, silly girl. It's time for dinner. Let's go. Molly will be wondering where you are."
Hermione knew that he was simply refraining from saying Mrs. Weasley would wonder where he was, but she kept that knowledge to herself. She wondered if it was his experience as a potions master or his exceptionally large nose that allowed him to smell dinner from this part of the house. That thought caused her to giggle, earning her another glare.
The two walked slowly to the kitchen, slowly because Severus spent most of his time leaning heavily against the wall and moving at a snail's pace. Hermione remained behind him in case he passed out, which she was afraid he was about to do at any moment. Arriving in the kitchen, she was amused to see that Molly nagged at him for a good five minutes, berating his insolence.
"Ah, Hermione, we were just going to send Ron to get you," Arthur greeted her, grinning. "By the way, dear, Remus here was just telling me about the article you were reading earlier. Your friends sound fascinating! Did you say one of them sailed in the Offerrer, Remus?"
"No, Arthur, one of them sings in the opera," Remus replied, chuckling.
Hermione could have kicked herself for her mistake. She'd forgotten about Mr. Weasley's passion for Muggles! Now how was she going to get out of this one?
"And the other, what does he do? Something about show and tell business? Does that mean he takes things and tells people about them? Sounds rather bland if you ask me."
"No, that's show business," she finally said. "George is a good friend, and he's an actor on stage. He's hoping to make it to Broadway, but that would require him to move to London and then to New York, which is a bit expensive."
Mr. Weasley's eyes lit up, and Hermione spent the rest of dinner regaling him with tales about acting and why Muggles found plays so fascinating. It was just good luck on her part that she'd been in several musicals as a child and could give him an idea about what rehearsals were like and how intense directors could be when it was close to curtain time.
After dinner, Molly put her foot down and told Severus to go to bed immediately. The potions professor looked extremely put out but acquiesced when she threatened to floo Dumbledore for backup. Ron waited only until Snape was in the hallway before bursting into laughter. This, of course, caused Molly to shoo him up to bed as well.
Before Hermione could say anything, Remus asked her to go at least to the library, and she knew something was going on with the Order. She accepted gracefully and was even grateful to get back to her book to read more of what Lord Henry had to say about the subject of reviving portrait subjects.
Burying herself in the book, she continued reading the journal, curling herself more comfortably into the chair, and devouring the words scrawled in Lord Henry's strong handwriting. An hour later, she sat up in the chair, staring at the words she'd just read.
Most wizards know that charming portraits leaves a magical trail on the portrait that can be activated either immediately following their incanting or immediately after the subject's death. What they fail to notice is that the incantation not only leaves the portrait trail, it also binds the portrait to the wizard that is its subject. The binding is something most wizards ignore, but it gives them a powerful magic that they do not realize they can call upon.
It is this magic that some say is similar to the bond between mother and child, so powerful that it can recall in portraits memories of the subject that were not originally pulled to it. It is this power that we studied when we began our research on the effects of charming portraits and how charms could be altered to produce different effects.
Our little group never meant to experiment with reviving the dead. This is Dark magic indeed, and we wanted to experiment with other parts of charms. However, Sera stumbled upon the magical binding after a portrait of her was charmed by Bailey. The binding is almost invisible, but the charmer and the subject can see it momentarily following the end of the spell. The same golden glow that suffuses the portrait following the end of the incantation envelops the subject in a much lighter glow following the subject's waking.
Once we discovered this tie, we began to investigate it's causes, which I will expound upon in the next chapter; however, when we really researched it, we found that it would be quite possible to use this tie in various ways. We experimented with different incantations and began to put charms together that could be used to heal the subject or to allow the portrait to show any physical harm the subject endured. In fact, it was a variation of one of the words used in the particular charm that I used in charming Dorian Gray's portrait, a pitiful misspoken word that caused me regret for years.
But I digress. Though my peers disagreed with me on many points, they did agree that it might be possible, though extremely difficult, to call back to life someone through his link to his portrait. We modified our research immediately to explore this possibility.
Eventually death and insanity claimed the rest of my peers, but I remained devoted to the cause. It was only after Dorian's death that I discovered the correct incantation. It is here that I will reveal it.
In the following pages, reader, you will find the incantation to bring back to life a wizard who is the subject of a regularly charmed portrait.
Hermione stared and stared, eyes unfocused and brain running a mile a minute. This was incredible, and she couldn't believe it was possible. Then again, she hadn't read the rest of the book. Perhaps he would give some kind of disclaimer or caveat for the incantation that would render it unusable. Perhaps he never finished the book and thus didn't actually put the incantation in it.
Unable to reign in her curiosity, she turned the page and saw the incantation, clear as day, lining the head of the page under the chapter titled 'On Reviving the Dead.' Her heart skipped a beat, and she considered continuing reading when she heard the odd sound of someone sniffing. Looking around, she saw nothing out of the ordinary until she realized someone was moving in the portrait above the book case nearest her. Glancing up, she saw that Phineas Nigellus was glaring at her.
"That text is Dark, girl," he said in a calm tone. "You shouldn't be reading it."
Hermione glanced at him, "How would you know that? Were you the one who got it?"
Phineas shook his head. "No. But my idiotic grandson did. Blubbering baby couldn't stand even regular books so no use wondering why he nearly went insane after picking up that one."
"He went insane?" Hermione's voice was hushed, but her eyes had widened. Even Lord Henry's friends had suffered from insanity, according to his writing. She wondered if that might be the caveat he failed to put in the book.
"He almost did," Phineas remarked. "I had to take the bloody book away from him before he lost himself completely. After that he was obsessed with portraits. Always wanted to get them made or charm them or other such nonsense."
Hermione considered this. "So what happened to him?"
"Nothing. He lived a good, long life and then died. His portrait was burned years ago. He always claimed, even in the portrait, that if we'd just listen to him he could come back from the dead. 'Course I was already dead, so there was nothing I could have done. Sirius was the one who burned the portrait."
Hermione was surprised by this knowledge. "Was he like the- er- rest of the Black family? Um, I mean, did he share the same sympathies of Mrs. Black?"
Phineas grinned at her, an oily grin that she immediately disliked. "No. He just ranted and raved about portraits all the time. Tried to convince Sirius to read the bloody book and then yelled at him when he refused. Sirius burned it after one particularly angry fight."
"So how do you know, then, that this book is Dark?" Hermione finally mused, not really expecting an answer.
"I don't," Phineas responded, surprising her. "But it drove old Lyconis madder than a hatter with obsession over portraits. No book that does something like that could be considered anything but Dark."
Hermione hummed slightly before saying, "I think I'll reserve judgment till I've finished reading it then. I doubt it will drive me mad."
"You'd be surprised, girl. That book is pure evil if you ask me. But don't trust the old Hogwarts headmaster. I'm just a portrait. Feel free; read it for yourself. But don't come crying to me when you think all portraits are out to get you." Phineas's cackling followed her as she exited the library.
A/N: Feel free to let me know if reading the more detailed bits of Harry Wotton's book were boring. I need to set the story up properly or else it won't work for what I'm wanting to do. I know it seems slow, but I'm afraid that's how this story is going to be. It has to be slow because I can't see any kind of SiriusHermione ship working if they just launch right into it.
By the way, for those who care, I'm currently writing this story from China where I live right now. I'm still looking for a beta for this story and would love to hear from any takers. I try to reread my chapters and catch any serious errors, but I can't catch everything. Anyone interested in doing a clean sweep on my chapters, please feel free to message me, and I'll get back to you right away.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the chapter! Feel free to leave a review on your way out!
Until next time -