From Portrait to Portrait
Harry turned his head in time to see Phineas
marching out of his portrait and knew that he had gone to visit his other
painting in Grimmauld Place. He would walk, perhaps, from portrait to
portrait, calling for Sirius through the house...
37 - The Lost Prophecy, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
realisation, when it came, was swift and silent. It was not accompanied by
howls of anguish, nor by wails of fury. It was sudden.
It was cold. And it hurt. "I don't believe it," he had said. He
hadn't been lying. But now the truth pierced through him, and he finally parted
with the comforting illusions he had painted for himself. Now he believed.
had made the journey thousands of times before. Never had he been as
disoriented as he was now, never had he felt as confused by the alien feelings
which were rising up in him. Looking around the room he was now a part of, he
remembered the teenager who had once lived here for a brief few weeks. Such a Gryffindor
- so determined to be noble and play the martyr, without even examining
the necessity of such an act. His lips curled up in derision. Teenagers - they
really were all the same.
on to the frame in the next room, he continued his inward rant about teenagers
in general. All so full of their own self-importance, all
thinking that they had to be the centre of attention. How no one would understand
them. He had never cared for them.
was suddenly struck by the distinct lack of noise. Normally there'd be the
constant pacing about by - moving on to the next portrait - to say nothing of the muttering of that disgusting house-elf.
And occasionally there would be the inhuman screeching of that woman, who he
felt had an uncanny resemblance to a banshee. If not
visually, then certainly vocally. But now the house was silent.
into the next portrait, his previous thoughts continued. During the brief
period he had acted as headmaster, he had never tried to resolve the problems
of those self-pitying teenagers. If they thought that they were such tragic
figures that nobody could truly comprehend their complicated emotions, then let them solve their own petty squabbles. He had been
labelled as cold and uncaring, and quite possibly the worst ever headmaster of
Hogwarts. That suited him perfectly. He had no desire to be remembered as a
compassionate and understanding figure.
merest tints of doubt were beginning to take shape in his mind. As a Slytherin,
he had never allowed himself to be tricked into anything. He went through life
determined to think the worst of everyone until they had earned his trust. And
there were precious few people who had that honour. Dumbledore had been one of
them. And Dumbledore was the one who had, with such gentleness and firmness,
confirmed the death of - moving on –
had been many portraits in the house. Despite the determination of - the last
remaining descendent of the family - to destroy them,
many still remained. Derelict and blackened as they were, he had no trouble
transporting himself through each of them. He had already travelled through the
whole of that floor, and had failed to find any sign of life. Well, no worries.
There was plenty of the house left, after all.
he continued, he allowed his thoughts to drift once more. Where was he before?
Ah yes, the many follies of teenagers. But try as he might, he could no longer
concentrate on what was one of his favourite subjects. The thought of teenagers
led invariably to one particular teenager - one who he still remembered, no
longer a teenager of course - one who was the very reason for his current
presence at this place . . .
could not be dead. And yet, even as he repeated this one fact to himself,
another part of his mind questioned. Maybe he's not, and maybe he is. Either
way, why do you even care? The follies of teenagers and of most so-called
adults, remember? He thought back to before, when a black-haired teenager
had slept in the very room in which his portrait hung. He reflected idly that
there seemed to be a certain attraction for black-haired teenagers to his room
- they always seemed to end up in there. And they really were all the same. How
many times had he been forced to listen as some random person ranted on and on
about the unfairness of the world? He had always sighed,
weary of the apparent melodrama in their lives. Yet it was always with a
certain sadistic satisfaction that he retreated back into his portrait, with
the knowledge that, once again, he was proven right in his theories about the
philosophy of teenagers.
particular person had been different though. Oh, he had started out the same as
the others. The constant fighting with his parents and
brother and the habitual sulking in his room afterwards. But it was
after he returned that there was a change. And for one of the only times in his
life, he had felt some emotion other than scorn for another human. He had told
himself that he cared now because the whole event concerned the last of the
Blacks. Slytherins are always concerned with names and heritage, he
thought cynically, and you are most definitely a Slytherin.
that did not quite cut it. Faced with the prospect of analysing his own
thoughts, however, he shuddered. He hated examining his emotions and feelings.
He associated that with teenagers, and with the wallowing in self-pity. It was
what he had always tried to avoid (and succeeded in, most of the time), and
what he found most annoying in everybody else. The problem with a cynical
outlook on life, though, is that you always find that you act exactly the same
as everybody else, however much you scorn and look down on their behaviour.
to dwell on these thoughts any longer, he continued his search. He did
encounter Kreacher eventually - the house-elf merely
muttered when he saw him moving through the various portraits. But he still
managed to catch the undertone of glee in the mutterings, and he shuddered
again, this time for quite a different reason.
was after he had gone through the whole house that he finally allowed himself
to think and to doubt. Dumbledore - well, he still did not agree with all of
his methods. Far too indulgent with the pupils. But -
and he chuckled when he thought of it - you cannot deny that Dumbledore had
style. And you also couldn't deny that Dumbledore did not lie. He could
twist the truth. He could suppress the facts. But he did not lie. And as much
as he tried, he could not see how Dumbledore could possibly not be lying, and
at the same time for that person to be alive. But he still refused to accept
slowly, as if delaying the final moment of conclusion, he moved through the
portraits for a second time, each time inspecting his surroundings thoroughly
from every possible angle. He had thus far refrained from calling out - after
all, there was no need to make a fuss. He would confirm what he believed to be
the truth, and then silently slide away, without alerting anybody to his
presence in the house. Now, however, he let go of such restraint. Feebly at
first, but gradually getting louder, he called out the name which he had not
even allowed himself to think.
there was no answer. Even the old hag had not woken up - a true miracle for
her. He had unwillingly caught the phrase 'Department of from Kreacher, and had begun despairing even more, remembering
Dumbledore's mention of it also. And throughout his search, he had constantly
argued with himself over the true reason of why he cared so much. Finally
unable to take it any longer, and now fairly jumping through each portrait
despite the deliberate slowness of before, he had stopped and shouted "All
right, all right! I admit it! I do care about you, and more than just as the
last Black, and that's why I'm out of my mind with worry now! Just come out, dammit!"
there was still no answer.
with the finality of the truth, he still did not give up. Full of determined
resolve, he travelled through the entire house yet again. The house-elf seemed to
rejoice in his growing despair, and insisted on following him about, muttering
his dark words. "Persisting in looking for the murderer, with all the shame
he brought on the house, and
what he did to my poor mistress . . ." Kreacher
was ignored. He had far more important things to do, after all. But after
traversing the house a third time, and then a fourth, he was eventually forced
to give up.
returned to his portrait at Hogwarts. Dumbledore said nothing when he saw his
reappearance, but merely raised his eyebrows and continued with what he was
doing. The occupant of the portrait also did not say anything, but merely
resumed his usual expression of disdain for everything and everyone around him.
And as time went on, to all appearances Phineas Nigellus was still the cynical, sharp tongued portrait he
had always been. But occasionally, very occasionally, a student sent up to
Dumbledore's office for rule-breaking would notice that the portrait of the
clever-looking wizard with the pointed beard seemed to be just a little too
enthusiastic with his sarcastic remarks, and
that his sniffs, although often dismissed as implying haughty disdain, could
also quite possibly be one of those which were often accompanied by a swift dab
of the eyes.