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The Pencil Portrait Problem: A Theodore Nott Mystery by Northumbrian

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4. The Investigations of Theodore Nott

It was well after midnight, but all of the seventh-year Slytherins were awake.

Theodore Nott put down his quill and looked across the table towards Perdita Spinks.

‘Thank you, Perdita,’ he said quietly. ‘I’m sorry that you’ve had to wait so long. But our story corroborates that of the other girls. I’m afraid that none of us will get any rest until I give the Head Boy some answers. Would you mind helping me rearrange the chairs, please? Then we can ask the others to come back in here, and hopefully, if I can satisfy Draco, we’ll eventually get into bed.’

Perdita stared, shook her head and reached across the table to squeeze his hand. Theodore flinched at her touch. Looking into Perdita’s eyes, he saw embarrassment and confusion.

‘I was just going to say thank you,’ she told him. She lowered her voice. ‘You know how petulant Draco can be when things go wrong for him. It’s never his fault, is it?’

‘Usually, it is,’ said Theodore, hoping that he’d judged her mood correctly.

Perdita smiled, nodded, and again moved her hand across the table. She was trying to be friendly, Theodore realised. Having friends required trust, and helping people for no reason. Trusting people was dangerous, –Trust no one,” his father always said. Draco didn’t trust either, it was safest. He watched Perdita’s hand, as she again made a move, instigated contact. What did it mean?

He knew that, theoretically, many people liked to be touched and held, but his mother had died when he was in his fourth year, and his father had always been remote. His father was untouchable, both figuratively and literally. Physical contact made Theodore nervous, but his lack of response had made Perdita unhappy. Perhaps if he told the truth, it was worth a try.

‘My mother died a few years ago,’ Theodore admitted. ‘My father is not… he doesn’t like being touched by anyone. I’m sorry that I flinched, before, it’s just that no one touches me.’

‘You poor thing,’ Perdita said. She took his hand again, and this time he didn’t flinch. Her hand was warm and her caress gentle. She smiled at him, and he resolved to become a more tactile person. He needed to learn to appear friendly, which was something he’d never been good at.

He was –that weird little loner”, he knew that. Theodore carefully considered his dormitory mates. No one actually liked Crabbe or Goyle, not many people liked Draco, either. Zabini, however, was different. Of course, Zabini was tall, and good looking and Theodore knew that he’d never be either of those things. Nevertheless, he would study Zabini. He needed to learn how to make friends, or at least, to make some people feel sympathy towards him. If Voldemort fell, he would need friends who weren’t Death Eaters, and if Voldemort won, then perhaps people he’d befriended might turn to him for help, something which he could certainly use to his advantage.

He’d been staring vacantly into space, and Perdita withdrew her hand rather suddenly.

‘I need to carry out an experiment, so if you will help me with these chairs, please.’

Perdita nodded and silently helped him with the chairs. She was no longer smiling; perhaps he shouldn’t have drifted off into contemplation while she was holding his hand. Getting back to the business at hand, he asked her to place five chairs facing the desk, but several feet away. He then placed two pairs of chairs, including Draco’s, at right angles to the five, creating an open rectangle, chairs forming three sides, the table the fourth.

‘If you can sit there, please, Perdita.’ Theodore pointed at the fourth chair from the left in the row of five. Perdita sat obediently.

Theodore then pushed open the door to the Head Boy’s Room and peered out. Everyone else was sitting in the common room. He had now spoken to every Slytherin student in his year and he had all of the evidence he could gather.

‘Could everyone come through, please?’ he asked.

Draco was first into the room, pushing past Pansy in his haste. Theodore noted the malevolent glare Pansy gave her boyfriend.

‘Well?’ Draco demanded.

‘In a moment, Draco, I’d like everyone to take a seat first, please. If you’d sit here, Pansy.’ He guided her to the central chair, the one directly opposite his own. ‘Blaise, between Draco and the table; Millicent, you’re next to Draco too; Daphne, between Millicent and Pansy. You two, go to that end.’ He pointed Crabbe and Goyle to the two seats opposite Blaise and Draco. Tracey Davis sat uneasily between Perdita and Crabbe.

‘Well?’ Draco demanded again the moment that everyone sat.

Theodore walked silently around the table and sat. He looked around at his fellow Slytherins and clasped his hands.

‘Well?’ Draco was beginning to sound impatient.

Theodore looked directly across the table and into Pansy’s dark brown eyes.

‘Well, Draco, I’m satisfied that neither Pansy nor Blaise had nothing to do with this. Perhaps you’d like to apologise to them.’ Theodore noted the flash of thanks on Pansy’s face and turned to face Draco.

‘Their stories are ridiculous,’ Draco snapped.

‘So ridiculous that they must be true,’ replied Theodore evenly. ‘Any fool could have come up with a better story, and neither Pansy nor Blaise are fools. You saw me test the mugs. They both contained a sleeping draft. I’ve spoken to all of you. I know what happened, and how. But I still have no idea who. I’m hoping that Blaise will be able to tell us, but first. This is what I believe happened.’ Theodore Nott paused and looked at his fellow seventh years.

‘The thief - we’ll call her –X” - was in this room with us when you explained your plan, Draco,’ began Theodore.

‘Call her –X”? How do you know it was a girl?’ Pansy asked.

‘Because she kissed Blaise,’ Theodore said. ‘She was invisible, but Blaise is confident that it was a girl.’

‘Hopes, more like,’ Pansy whispered to her friends. Theodore ignored their giggles. He frowned; he was constructing a theory from carefully gathered evidence, but the girls seemed disinterested; they did not appear to understand the beauty of deductive reasoning.

‘How do you know she was here?’ asked Malfoy.

‘I don’t know, not for certain, but it’s extremely likely. You went to the library and, very publicly, announced to Blaise that you had something important to tell him. That, I think, was enough to pique someone’s interest. If it was not someone in the library, then the only alternative is that it was a fellow Slytherin. Unless you’ve been going around the school loudly bragging about your secret plan,’ said Theodore.

Draco hissed angrily.

‘Draco would never do something as stupid as that,’ said Pansy. She sounded sincere, but she was staring into Theodore’s eyes, and her face appeared to tell a different story.

‘Thank you, Pansy,’ said Theodore hastily. He turned his attention to Draco. ‘Even Goyle can tie a shoelace, you know. It was neatly done, very neatly done. You opened the portrait hole and entered the common room. Goyle tripped over his own shoelace, giving –X” the chance to slip into the common room. She was invisible, of course.

‘Then you ordered us all into this room and Goyle tripped over his lace again. Are your laces tied tightly, Goyle?’ Theodore asked. Goyle examined them carefully and grunted an affirmative. ‘Then walk to the door, please,’ he asked, keeping his wand hidden under the table. Goyle managed only two steps before he tripped over his lace.

‘Easy,’ said Theodore, revealing his wand. ‘I unfastened the knot and moved the lace under his other shoe. I recommend that you use a double knot in future, Goyle. Once might have been an accident, but twice, once in front of each door? As I think back, it seemed a little unlikely at the time, but we all dismissed it as Goyle’s clumsiness. It was a clever way to gain entry. And of course, once she was inside this room, Draco, you told us, and –X”, everything he was planning. I’m certain that she was working on her plan from the moment she saw us casting the protection spells on the cupboard. The Sketch Board was the obvious target. Without it, Craco, you have no idea who the mirror is seeing.’

‘But the door was locked, and the room was alarmed,’ Draco protested.

‘True, but unimportant. May I borrow your necklace, Pansy?’ said Theodore. ‘Thank you for not repairing it.’

He made a complex series of stabbing movements with his wand, and the tiny silver chain transformed into large steel one.

‘Had you been paying attention in Professor McGonagall’s class, Draco,’ Theodore said, ‘you’d know that Transfigured items retain a memory of the object they were Transfigured into. Pansy’s necklace was taken from her, the beads removed, and it was transfigured into this chain. The gap at the bottom of this door is rather deep, and this sturdy steel chain fits under it.’ He stood, and demonstrated the truth of his statement, but decided to be a little more circumspect about his second observation. It wouldn’t do to let Draco know that, like the thief, he had realise that the board could be slid under the door.

‘And apparently the Sketch Board must have fitted under the gap, too. So we know how, and now we must try to determine who.’

‘And what spectacular bit of magic are you going to use to determine that, Nott?’ snapped Draco. ‘Or are you going to simply announce that it was Weasley? Because who else could it be?’

‘It wasn’t Weasley!’ protested Zabini, horrified.

‘Then it must have been Lovegood,’ suggested Pansy, addng to Zabini’s discomfort.

‘Merlin, no!’ Zabini slumped in his chair, horrified at the thought. ‘It couldn’t have been Lovegood,’ he protested. ‘This girl could talk sensibly.’

‘I don’t think that it was either of them. But you may be able to tell us, Blaise. If you’d care to stand up, please,’ Theodore ordered.

Blaise didn’t move, but instead stared sullenly at Theodore, who simply glanced at Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle. Realisation struck, and Blaise obeyed. Theodore motioned him to move in front of the girls.

‘And if you will all stand too.’ He indicated the girls. They cautiously stood. Theodore had arranged them in order of height. Millicent was the tallest, taller than Blaise, and Tracey was the smallest, she and Perdita were the only ones shorter than Theodore himself. Blaise looked along the line, and then looked curiously at Theodore.

‘Height,’ Theodore demanded. ‘Was your head up, or down?’

‘Down when she started kissing him, but up when she finished,’ Daphne giggled.

Theodore looked at Daphne in confusion, and she laughed at him.

Blaise gazed thoughtfully between Pansy and Daphne. He bent forwards towards Daphne, moving his lips towards hers. When she lifted her head to reciprocate he stepped hastily backwards.

‘Taller than Pansy, almost Daphne’s height,’ he announced. ‘Perhaps she was a fraction shorter, but she was nowhere near as tall as Bulstrode.’

‘I’m five feet and nine inches tall,’ said Daphne.

‘And I’m five feet seven,’ said Pansy.

‘Arms,’ said Theodore.

Zabini grabbed Daphne’s upper arms and released them immediately. He turned and grabbed Pansy’s.

‘Not as flabby as Daphne’s, more like Pansy’s,’ he said confidently. Daphne hissed. Theodore watched with interest. Suddenly, Blaise was no longer bored and dismissive; he was prepared to play the game. He watched as Blaise pulled Pansy close.

‘She was nowhere near as…’ he hesitated ‘curvy as Pansy,’ Blaise announced. He stepped sideways and grabbed Perdita Spinks, who did not object. ‘More like Perdita.’

‘Flat-chested, then,’ said Pansy looking scornfully at Perdita.

‘So, we’re looking for a girl of five foot eight or nine, slim and, er, flat-chested,’ said Theodore. ‘That’s the best I can do for you, Draco; I’m sorry. But as Lovegood and Weasley are no taller than Davis, then we can be sure that it wasn’t them. Can you think of anyone from the library, Blaise?’

‘The Vane girl,’ said Draco. ‘She’s skinny.’

Theodore ignored Draco’s outburst and watched Zabini closely.

Blaise gave a slight shake of his head. ‘It wasn’t Romilda. I’d have recognised her scent,’ he said, and then he hesitated. For a second, Theodore thought that Blaise had identified the girl. But Blaise shook his head firmly. ‘No … not her,’ he said firmly.

‘Perhaps Granger sneaked back into school,’ suggested Pansy. ‘In heels, she’d be about the right height and build.’

‘Mudbloods stink, Pansy,’ said Zabini dismissively. ‘I’d have been able to smell her.’

Draco nodded his agreement. ‘There are no Mudbloods in this school,’ he said. ‘We’re finally free of the filthy creatures.’

‘No Mudblood should ever be put in a position of power over Purebloods,’ said Daphne forcefully.

‘All we can do is look around the school, Malfoy. I’m sorry,’ said Theodore. ‘Unless your intimate knowledge of girls has given you anything else, Blaise.’

Everyone laughed, except Draco.

‘We must get the Sketch Board back,’ said Draco angrily. ‘This is no laughing matter. It must be everyone’s top priority. Tomorrow morning, everyone must try to track down the thief.’

‘We will, Draco,’ Pansy promised.

Draco snarled and stormed from the room. Theodore grabbed Zabini’s sleeve and indicated that he wanted a final word in private.

‘You thought of a name, Zabini, I saw it in your eyes,’ he told him after everyone else had left. ‘Who was it?’

Zabini shook his head. ‘I can think of one girl who fits the description, but it can’t possibly be her,’ he said.

‘Why not?’

‘Because I know for certain that Susan Bones has given at least four boys the brush off. She simply isn’t interested in boys.’