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The Pencil Portrait Problem: A Theodore Nott Mystery by Northumbrian

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3. The Perceptions of Blaise Zabini

Blaise Zabini smiled at the three girls.

‘You’ve changed your hair, Romilda; it suits you,’ he said quietly. Romilda Vane beamed, though her face fell when he gently held her friend’s hand and lifted it. ‘I’ve never seen that bracelet before, Frankie; it’s very pretty. Is it new?’ Frankie Curling smiled and nodded.

‘Zabini!’ Draco Malfoy shouted across the library. ‘Head Boy’s Room, now! I have something very important to discuss with you.’

Blaise saw several heads lifting angrily. The pretty Patil twins and the curvy Brown girl all glared at Draco, obviously annoyed. Ernie Macmillan inflated his chest; the pompous oaf was obviously about to stand and say something fatuous. The skinny Bones girl was sitting next to Macmillan. She spoke quietly and he sat back down and remained silent.

A tall, hook-nosed and bespectacled Slytherin sixth-year girl, whose name Blaise had never bothered to discover, stood, closed her books and slouched past Draco, Crabbe and Goyle. Draco muttered something which made the girl slump lower. She looked to be close to tears.

Blaise smiled apologetically at the three fifth-year girls in front of him.

‘I’d better go,’ he apologised. ‘If I don’t, we could all be in trouble.’

Madam Pince arrived. She glared at Malfoy, who simply stared arrogantly back at her.

‘We’re leaving,’ Draco told the Librarian, speaking deliberately loudly. ‘Come on, Zabini, don’t dawdle.’

Blaise squeezed Frankie’s hand before releasing it.

‘See you later, ladies,’ he said. He grinned and winked, and the three girls giggled.

‘You’re going to do a job for me, Zabini,’ Draco said as they walked down the stairs towards the Slytherin dormitory.

‘Certainly,’ said Blaise politely. Draco hadn’t asked a question, he’d made a demand, and saying no to the Head Boy was not a good idea.

‘You were talking to three Gryffindors,’ accused Draco.

‘I was flirting with three girls, Draco. You should try it; it’s fun,’ replied Blaise wryly. ‘You’d be surprised what people tell you if you’re nice to them. Vane is a pure-blood and I’m not sure if she’s a blood-traitor yet. Her very pretty friend Frankie is a half-blood, and so is the other girl. They all think that Longbottom and the snooty Weasley bitch are up to something, but they don’t know what.’

‘I’m not stupid, Zabini, I know that they’re plotting, but I’ll have a surprise for that that stupid oaf Longbottom and the ginger slut if they try anything.’ Draco rubbed his hands in expectation. Crabbe and Goyle, who had been lumbered silently along behind them, chuckled. Each of them carried a large satchel, and Blaise wondered what they contained.

‘You know a spell which prevents objects from being Summoned, don’t you, Blaise?’ Draco asked.

The only way you could know that, Draco, is if you tried to Summon something from my trunk, Blaise thought.

‘Not exactly,’ he replied mildly. ‘I know a spell which prevents objects being summoned from inside an enchanted area; a box or a trunk or a room. I know several very good alarm spells too, as you know. My trunk is alarmed and everyone heard when the alarm went off last weekend. I only wish that I’d caught the attempted thief.’

Draco scowled.

‘My mother has a lot of very expensive jewellery and she’s very protective of it,’ added Blaise. ‘She taught me several very useful alarm and protection spells. You won’t find any of them in the standard book of spells.’

‘Well, I have something very valuable which I need protecting, and you’re going to help me,’ said Draco.

‘It will be a pleasure,’ Blaise lied glibly.

They reached the dungeon corridor. In the distance, Blaise noticed the tall girl with glasses from the library slouch through the portrait hole.

Draco strode up to the portrait and spoke the password. The portrait swung open and Draco stepped through and into the Slytherin common room. Blaise and Crabbe followed; Goyle, however, stumbled and fell flat on his face.

‘Shoelace,’ Goyle grumbled as he crouched in the corridor and refastened it. Draco folded his arms and impatiently tapped a foot.

Goyle finally stood and plodded slowly into the common room. Draco strode through, ignoring the silently staring students. He pushed open the door to the Head Boy’s Room and imperiously motioned Blaise into the room. Inside, the other Slytherin seventh-years were all sitting, waiting. Weedy little Theodore Nott sat in silence, opposite five chattering girls. Blaise suppressed a smile. Poor little Theodore, he had no idea about girls. There was a thud behind him and Blaise looked around to see Gregory Goyle on the floor again.

‘Shoelace,’ Goyle grumbled for a second time, as he again retied his lace.

‘You can’t even fasten your shoes properly, you clumsy oaf,’ snapped Draco angrily. ‘You are carrying a priceless artefact, Goyle. You’d better hope that it remains undamaged. Close the door behind you when you finally manage to sort yourself out.’

Draco turned his back on Goyle and strolled across the room. He sat in the ornate high-backed, almost throne-like wooden chair he had claimed as his own, and made himself comfortable at the head of the table. Goyle closed the door and moved across to sit next to Draco.

‘Hello, Draco,’ said Pansy, smiling. Draco ignored her.

Poor Pansy, Blaise thought. All that time vamping Malfoy, persuading him that she was the girl for him, and it’s all gone to nothing.

‘Davis, make sure that the door is locked, and that we can’t be overheard,’ Draco ordered.

The small mousey girl silently rushed to obey. Blaise watched her lazily. Outside classes, he rarely spent any time with any of the Slytherin girls in his year.

There seemed to be absolutely no life in Tracey Davis. She existed only to agree with Pansy, and do the bidding of the other girls. As he watched, he wondered if there wasn’t more to both Davis and her closest friend, Perdita Spinks. The two said little, but as he looked at them closely, he began to speculate. Perhaps they were simply keeping in the background.

Davis had good bone structure and an attractive face, but she chose not to do anything about it. She was deliberately mousey, he realised. The girl was almost insubstantial, as though a light wind would blow her away and so unnoticeable as to be almost invisible. Blaise looked at the girl curiously. There was, he suddenly realised, a lot more to Davis.

Black-haired and round-faced Spinks, too, could tidy herself up and make herself look a lot more attractive, but she didn’t. She was much taller and more substantial that her friend Davis. Suddenly curious, Blaise observed them both closely. If they tried, both girls would outshine Parkinson and her horse-faced best friend Daphne Greengrass. Perhaps that was why they didn’t.

‘This is your big opportunity,’ Draco began grandly. ‘Within days, or weeks at most, the Dark Lord will track down Potter. There is no doubt that –the moron who lived” will be dead by Christmas, and then the work will really begin. The Dark Lord is already in charge, and it’s now time for you all to decide where your loyalties lie. We are all pure-bloods here.’

Draco was declaiming arrogantly and watching a stony-faced Theodore Nott. He wasn’t watching the people he should be. Blaise noticed Tracey shrink a little at Draco’s words, and realised that Nott, too, was watching the girl. So - Davis’ blood wasn’t pure! That information might be useful, if it were true. There were a couple of pretty Ravenclaw sixth-years he might be able to persuade to do some genealogical research for him.

‘When we leave Hogwarts, it will be to a world where the friends of the Dark Lord are rewarded,’ continued Draco confidently. ‘Your willingness to help me now will be a point in your favour in the future. There are disruptive elements within the school, and although the Headmaster disagrees with the Ministry, Madam Umbridge is intending to reintroduce the Inquisitorial Squad to deal with them. You will all join, won’t you?’

Everyone tried to nod enthusiastically.

‘Of course, Draco,’ said Pansy ingratiatingly.

‘The blood-traitor Weasley girl has already started causing trouble,’ Draco announced. ‘And that useless fool Longbottom is helping her. I won’t be able to do anything about the dissent in the Gryffindor dormitory until the Ministry sacks that ignorant Mudblood loving old bat, McGonagall. I really don’t see why we should put up with her bullying and incompetence.’

‘Perhaps you should try actually working in her classes,’ Blaise observed languidly. He regretted his words instantly.

‘Watch what you say, Blaise,’ Draco threatened. ‘If you’re not with me, you’re against me. Just remember that.’

‘I’m with you, Draco,’ said Pansy. ‘You can count on the Head Girl, and her friends.’

‘I’m on your side too, Draco,’ Blaise protested. ‘You I’ve got no time for the vicious little ginger blood traitor, but I think that the Dark Lord should be watching her; she’s Potter’s girlfriend.’

‘They split up at Dumbledore’s funeral, Blaise,’ pronounced Pansy dismissively. ‘Keep up with the gossip. Potter’s probably busy getting off with that Mudblood cow Granger now.’

‘That ugly bitch should be rotting in Azkaban with the other scum,’ said Draco venomously. ‘At least this year we don’t have to deal with whining, filthy little Mudbloods like Granger.’

Blaise remained silent. They were wrong about Ginny Weasley and Potter, he was certain of that, but there was no point in annoying both the Head Boy and the Head Girl.

Draco nodded at Crabbe and Goyle. Crabbe immediately began to unfasten his satchel. Goyle, however, was staring vacantly into space, so Crabbe nudged him. Goyle immediately followed Crabbe’s example and soon, two flat, cloth-wrapped bundles were carefully placed on the table.

‘Weasley and her cronies will certainly try to involve students from other houses. That’s what they did when Madam Umbridge was in charge, and this is how we’re going to catch them,’ Draco announced. ‘This is the Secrets Revealed Mirror.’

Everyone on the room, apart from Theodore Nott, pushed their chairs back when Draco spoke.

‘So, you all have secrets.’ Draco chuckled cruelly. ‘Everyone except Nott.’

‘Oh, I have secrets, too, Draco. Lots of them,’ said Nott mildly. ‘But I’ve heard of the mirror, and I know that it won’t find them.’

Draco opened one of the bags and pulled out a flat wooden board. It was two feet long, eighteen inches wide, and half an inch thick. A brass tube screwed to the side of the board contained a pencil, and several sheets of parchment were held onto the front of the board by brass clips.

‘The Mirror is in the other bag,’ Draco announced. ‘The Sketch Board magically draws the likeness of anyone in front of the mirror, even if they are invisible or in any wan magically concealed. We are going to put the Sketch Board into that old broom cupboard,’ Draco pointed to the only other door in the room. ‘And I’m going to put the mirror on the seventh floor corridor and use it to check on the troublemakers. I’ve already prepared the cupboard. I’ve had a new magical lock fitted, and I have the only key. The door has been strengthened too.

‘Now I want every one of you to place an alarm spell in the room. I want everyone here to know the instant someone steps inside that room. Blaise, you will enchant the room to make certain that, even if someone somehow manages to open the door, they can’t use a Summoning Charm to remove the board without entering the room.’

‘But how will you collect the drawings and replace the parchment, Draco?’ Pansy asked.

‘By setting off the alarm spells, obviously,’ Draco snapped. ‘Now, get to work, everyone.’

It took over an hour. Blaise watched everyone carefully as they all fixed alarm spells in the six foot square stone walled cupboard. Bulstrode, Crabbe, Goyle and Spinks all spoke their spells, and Blaise was certain that he could easily undo them. The others, however, cast complex non-verbal alarm spells.

Blaise was impressed by Draco’s ingenuity. Standard alarm spells worked when anyone other than the caster entered an area. This way, even if Draco was placed under the Imperius Curse (the simplest way of avoiding alarm spells) nine alarms would still sound. Only the ten of them knew that the board was in there, and none of them was stupid enough to attempt to remove ten very different alarm spells.

To Draco’s disgust and Nott’s obvious interest, Blaise silently cast his Anti-Summoning spell. While he did so, Pansy and Daphne, under instruction from Draco, assembled a wooden tripod-easel.

Once the easel was completed, Draco carefully rested the Sketch Board on it and turned to Pansy.

‘Put it in the cupboard,’ he ordered.

‘But I’ll set off the alarms,’ Pansy protested.

‘Exactly,’ agreed Draco.

Pansy sullenly obeyed. The instant she entered the cupboard, a dissonance of alarms, bells, hooters, whistles, and the ear shattering scream of Blaise’s own spell sounded. Everyone except Draco turned off their alarms. He watched Pansy in cruel amusement and waited until she had placed the easel and left the room before finally shutting off the annoying whistle.

‘Accio Board,’ Draco said. The Sketch Board remained on the easel.

‘Accio Easel,’ he tried. Still nothing moved.

‘Excellent,’ he announced. He locked the cupboard door and placed the key carefully in his pocket. ‘Don’t think of stealing the key; this is a personal lock and the key will only turn in the lock if I’m holding it.’

Draco turned and looked around the room, giving everyone a smug smile.

‘Girls, you can leave. Get out, now!’ Draco ordered. Pansy led the girls from the room and Blaise once again wondered why Pansy put up with Malfoy.

‘Zabini, you stay here and guard the Sketch Board until I get back,’ added Draco. ‘You three, follow me.’

Nott exchanged an exasperated glance with Zabini and followed Draco, Crabbe and Goyle from the room.