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The Pencil Portrait Problem: A Theodore Nott Mystery by Northumbrian

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5. The Unexpected Actions of Susan Bones

Ernie Macmillan took a deep, angry breath and began to stand.

‘Don’t, Ernie,’ Susan warned, placing a warning hand on his arm. ‘Malfoy is up to something, and I’m going to find out what. Wait here. If I’m not back before the library closes, take my bag back to the common room, please.’

She opened her school bag and pulled out the pencil bag containing the collection of Weasley products she’d purchased, at a substantial discount, before she had returned to school. All Weasley products were, of course, banned by Headmaster Snape, but the twins had provided her, Neville, Ginny, and several other DA members with pencil bags enchanted with an Undetectable Extension Charm. The small canvas bag contained everything she had bought.

Stepping out of the library and thankful that she was wearing flat, soft soled shoes, Susan Disillusioned herself and dashed along the corridor after the four Slytherin boys.

‘I’ll have a surprise for that fat oaf Longbottom if he tries anything,’ she heard Draco say. Susan kept as close as she dared to the quartet and listened to Draco’s boasting.

When they reached the Slytherin common room, Susan used Goyle’s shoelace to trip him up, a trick she repeated to get into the –Head Boy’s Room”. As she entered, Susan stared at the brass plaque in disbelief. It was typically self-important of Draco Malfoy to try to make himself appear more important than others. Next, she thought sardonically, he’d be demanding his own private chambers; someone as important as Draco should surely have his own rooms, rather than have share a dormitory as Head Boys had done since the school was opened.

While Draco organised the Slytherin students, Susan slipped silently into a corner and sat on the floor. She watched and listened while Draco explained his plan. As she listened, Susan became more and more concerned. She considered setting off a Decoy Detonator, grabbing the mirror, and making a run for it. However, as she considered the odds, she dismissed the idea. Even invisible, could she avoid hexes from ten students, get through a common room full of younger students and escape? It was extremely unlikely, so instead she simply watched the Slytherins as they squabbled.

Susan was a loner; she kept herself to herself and worked hard. That was the only way to succeed; that was something both her father and his sister, her Aunt Amelia, had agreed on. She had a plan for her life, a plan she’d discussed with her aunt. Of course, the plan depended upon her aunt’s murderer being defeated, which was far from certain. Nevertheless one day Susan, like her Aunt Amelia before her, would be Head of Magical Law Enforcement.

There were three women Susan admired above all others: her aunt, the Head of her House, and the Head of Gryffindor. All three were professional, practical and single. It seemed obvious to Susan that an interest in boys would hold her back, although sometimes she wondered what she was missing.

As she sat, she watched Blaise Zabini closely. He was interested in girls, and he was of interest to many of them, too. He observed, he listened, and more importantly, he heard what they said. But while he was profligate with his affections, he was also picky. Zabini judged a girl by her appearance; he certainly wouldn’t be interested in a tall, skinny Hufflepuff half-blood. Susan felt herself blushing and tried to concentrate on the conversation and not on Blaise’s attractive, high-cheek-boned face. Her Aunt Amelia was right; boys were a distraction.

When Draco announced that he was going to put the Sketch Board into a secure store room, Susan decided to examine the room. Reaching into the pencil case she scrabbled around for the small item she needed. It took some time, but her fingers eventually brushed the unpleasantly squishy object, the newest Weasley product, an Invisible Eye. Pulling it out, she cautiously unwound the fine, fleshy, line, released the small spongy ball and licked the soft cup at the other end of the line. Wishing that she’d tested it first, she opened her eyes wide, and gingerly placed the cup onto her right eyeball.

Until she closed her left eye, the effect was nausea-inducing and extremely unpleasant. She swivelled her eyes, and the Invisible Eye moved with them. She first looked back and checked the corner where she was hiding. She was grateful to see nothing.

The fact that Draco knew the location of the Room of Requirement was bad news, although it seemed to Susan that he believed it was merely some kind of secret store cupboard. However, with the Mirror and Sketch Board he’d be able to see everyone who entered the room. Even if they were invisible!

She worriedly checked the mirror as it lay on the table. Fortunately, it was covered. If Draco uncovered it, and it began to sketch the occupants of the room, she would need to escape! She quickly found two Decoy Detonators in her pouch and placed them in her pocket.

Susan then sent the eye soaring high above the table. The sensible thing to do would be to steal the Sketch Board. Without it, the mirror would be useless. She carefully examined the door to the store cupboard. It was ancient and very solid.

The eye would fit under the door, she realised. She sent it into the cupboard and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the eye adjusted itself for the low light. The light which streamed under the wide gap at the bottom of the door was enough to see that the hinges were large and firm.

As the conversation moved to protecting the cupboard, Susan hastily withdrew the eye. She sent the eye high above the heads of the Slytherins and then down onto the table, where she examined the Sketch Board. After her examination, she began to formulate a plan. If the eye fitted under the door, so would the board.

Susan waited patiently, and silently cursed when everyone but Blaise left. She hadn’t expected Draco to leave someone on guard. There was no alternative; she would have to Stun him and hope that none of the students in the common room heard the noise. As she slowly stood, Blaise walked across the room, opened a wooden chest and found himself a mug and a bottle of Butterbeer.

She had a Sleeping Draught in the pouch. That would be quieter than a Stunning Spell, which would almost certainly be heard in the common room. She found the Sleeping Draught; it was a Weasley twins special, and the stopper contained a small phial of antidote. –Just in case you accidentally knock out someone on your own side,” Fred had said when she bought it.

Susan tiptoed up behind Blaise, potion in hand. She tried to step around him, but he moved, and his arm brushed across her chest. He was fast, very fast. He whirled around, arms flailing, and managed to grab her. Strong hands held each of her arms, and all she had in her hand was the potion bottle.

‘Hello, invisible intruder,’ Blaise began. ‘Who are you, and how long have you been here?’ His smiling, handsome face was inches away from hers.

Susan needed time to think, so she kissed him.

So this is what it’s like to kiss a boy, part of her mind thought, while she desperately tried to think of an escape plan. Blaise was, she assumed, an experienced kisser. He certainly seemed to know what he was doing so she relaxed and began to enjoy the experience. She risked placing her empty hand on his waist, and he pulled her in close.

‘Well, I don’t think I’ve ever kissed you before,’ Blaise said when he finished. Unfortunately, he did not release her.

‘I sneaked in when the others left,’ Susan lied. ‘I wanted to be alone with you, close to you. Will you pour me a Butterbeer too?’ She tried to disguise her voice, lowering it to a husky whisper.

‘If I do, will you reveal yourself?’ Blaise asked.

‘Yes,’ Susan promised.

‘Don’t try anything stupid,’ Blaise warned. He released one arm, but held the other even tighter as he reached for a second mug and a second bottle. While he poured, Susan unstoppered the Sleeping Draught with her teeth. She bit into the phial containing the antidote and gulped it down. When Blaise finished pouring the second drink she stepped forwards and kissed him again, while he was distracted she clumsily poured the potion into both mugs.

‘Don’t you think that it’s more exciting, not knowing who I am?’ Susan asked breathlessly.

Blaise smiled, and for a second the creases in the corner of his eyes were almost enough to make Susan reveal herself.

‘True. But you might be Daphne’s little sister; that would be a severe disappointment,’ he said.

Susan hastily thrust the potion bottle into her pocket, on top of the Decoy Detonators, and grabbed a mug of Butterbeer.

‘Cheers,’ she said, taking a drink and relying on the twins’ antidote to keep her conscious.

‘So, the other one has the Love Potion in it, does it?’ Blaise said smugly. He plucked the mug from Susan’s grasp and took a deep gulp. ‘Whoever you are, you need to be smarter than that to fool…’

As he collapsed, Susan caught Blaise under the arms and lowered him gently into the high-backed chair Draco had been using. Picking up the empty mug from the floor she placed it on the table and began to implement her plan.

By Transfiguring one of her hairs into a seven foot long steel wire, and using the Invisible Eye inside the store room to guide her, she was easily able to pull the Sketch Board off the easel and onto the floor. She Transfigured the wire back into hair and pulled it back out through the keyhole. Now all she needed was to find something to drag it out under the door.

Then the door opened. Susan spun around and opened her other eye to see Pansy Parkinson enter. There was a look of malevolent glee on the Head Girl’s face.

As Pansy approached Blaise, Susan, disorientated by the fact that one eye was looking at Pansy in a well lit room while the other one was looking at the dark stone floor of a cupboard, stumbled. The potion bottle she’d hastily stuffed into her pocket fell onto the wooden floor and broke.

‘Stupefy’ thought Susan, rapidly drawing her wand. Pansy flew back against the table, bounced off it and landed on top of Blaise.

Green lapis lazuli beads rolled everywhere, but Susan wasn’t interested in them. She pulled out the connection to the Invisible Eye and hastily re-orientated herself. The broken silver chain would be very useful, so she removed it from around Pansy’s neck. That done, she quickly arranged Pansy on Blaise’s lap, hoping that the position she’d placed them in would be enough to distract anyone who came through the door to investigate the noise of her stunning Spell.

Susan waited in silence for a very nervous few minutes, but fortunately, no one else came in.

Lengthening and Transfiguring the chain into a much longer half inch wide steel chain was easy. Using the eye and her recreated makeshift hook to loop the chain around the Sketch Board and pull it under the door was frustratingly difficult, but eventually she succeeded. As she slowly and carefully eased the Sketch Board out under the door she was finally able to use her hands to drag it. There was less tolerance than she had thought; another couple of sheets of parchment would have made the theft impossible.

Returning her hook and the chain to their original forms, she threw the chain into a corner and carefully pocketed her hair. She looked at Blaise and Pansy; his head had fallen forwards into Pansy’s cleavage. After a moment’s consideration, she decided not to move it, she had been in the room for a long time and she should leave. Vanishing the broken remains of the potion bottle, she held the Sketch Board under her robes and fled.

Several students in the common room looked up curiously as the door to the Head Boy’s Room opened and closed. But no one did anything. As she stealthily crept through the common room, Susan looked around the place in horror. Here, the anti-Muggle-born propaganda she was sometimes forced to remove from the Hufflepuff common room was proudly displayed on the walls.

She stared in disbelief at a poster entitled –Conquer and Breed”, which showed a beautiful but terrified witch in low cut robes, being chased by a leering, ugly and slavering semi-human figure. Just in case there was any doubt as to the meaning, the woman wore a pure-blood label and the creature was, apparently, a Mudblood. The writing underneath the vile image informed Susan that –Association Breeds Pollution”. She was fighting the urge to tear down the poster when the portrait opened and Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle and Nott entered. Taking the chance the slowly closing door offered, she dashed to freedom.

Susan slept late the following morning. It had been well after one o’clock in the morning when she had contacted Neville and Ginny, given a rapid explanation of what she had done and handed them the Sketch Board. The Gryffindor dormitories were, she knew, much more secure than her own.

Pleased with her night’s work, and still glowing from the praise she’d received from Neville and Ginny, Susan left the Hufflepuff dormitory and made her way towards the Great Hall for breakfast. As she strode along the corridor, Theodore Nott appeared in front of her. She looked down at him in surprise. Nott, a boy only marginally taller than Colin Creevey, never approached anyone.

‘Well done, Bones,’ he said.

‘What on earth are you talking about, Nott?’ she asked coldly.

Nott told her; he told her everything. He explained what she’d done, and how she’d done it. Susan tried her best to look confused.

‘I expect you’ve already moved it to somewhere more secure than your dormitory,’ he said. ‘But if I were you I’d create a copy of the Sketch Board, burn it, and leave the remains somewhere where they’ll be found. Malfoy will still want revenge of course, but at least he’ll stop looking for it. Zabini doesn’t think that it could possibly have been you, so you’re probably safe. Nevertheless, I suggest that you also spread the rumour that Granger, or one of the other Muggle-borns of your height and build, managed to sneak into the school.’

‘What?’ Susan croaked in disbelief.

‘At the moment, Bones, my turning you over to Malfoy would serve no purpose. Frankly, being associated with the Malfoys isn’t as important as it once was. But being associated with your side is an even worse option. This is going to be an exciting year for all of us, Bones, especially as this conversation never happened. Good luck, and don’t forget what I’ve told you.’ With that, he turned on his heels and left.
Chapter Endnotes: Note:
I suspect that I’ve turned this challenge upside down, again. In my defence, at no point does it say that ths criminal must be caught, simply that the case must be solved. Even the great Sherlock sometimes allowed the criminal to walk free. Nor does it say that the thief cannot be on the side of the good guys.