A/N: Once again, I would like to thank Giola, my lovely beta, for helping me out with the story, and to MyMyMiss for thinking up this unique challenge for which the story is written.
A Portrait Existence: Phineas Nigellus Black
He was sleeping soundly, light snores escaping him when a quiet voice broke through his dreamless slumber. He inwardly sighed and pretended not to hear as he continued to feign the sleep that had been disturbed. Another little cough and he felt slightly annoyed, though he continued with his pretence. His name was called once again and by now he could hear the others around him muttering furiously. He ultimately didn’t have a choice but to crack his eyes open when his fellow neighbour Dilys Derwent barged into his territory and actually shook him.
“Mr. Dumbledore requires your assistance Phineas!” Derwent growled at him and tossed her long silver ringlets behind her shoulder. Phineas merely smirked at her lazily.
“Why don’t you assist him, Madame Derwent, if you’re so keen?”
“It is your services he requires Phineas – how ever unfortunate may that be – so it is your duty to aid him. Do not shy away from your responsibilities.”
“I’m not shying away from my responsibilities!” He exclaimed.
“Really? Then why were you feigning sleep when Dumbledore so clearly required your services?” She rolled her eyes and he glared at her.
“Just because you were a celebrated Healer when you lived and love to serve people, it doesn’t mean everyone is like that. I was – ah – merely having some time to myself.”
Dilys Derwent was about to retort to him when the current headmaster, standing in front of the portraits in flesh and bone, coughed.
“Dilys, Phineas – please, I would appreciate it if you did not argue.” He smiled and Derwent grimaced at Phineas one last time before storming back to her portrait.
Phineas closed his eyes momentarily before speaking.
“Yes? What is so urgent that you had to disrupt my much needed sleep, Dumbledore?”
Albus Dumbledore allowed an amused smile to ghost over his lips at this before heaving a small sigh.
“Ah Phineas, my apologies, but I need a little favour from you.”
“Albus Dumbledore, you should know that I – Phineas Nigellus, the proud Slytherin ex-headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – am present here to serve the school, not to attend to your petty errands.” He replied with his nose in the air.
Another commotion of voices broke out as he uttered those words but Phineas remained calm. Living – if you could call existing in a portrait as living – with his fellow neighbouring portraits for many years, he had learnt to merely pay no heed to them. They were all foolish and regarded themselves as servants to the various Headmasters that acquired the post at Hogwarts rather than as ex-headmasters themselves. Dilys Derwent, the Healer and Headmistress of Hogwarts during the 1700s, was no exception either as her outburst mere minutes ago had proved. However he refused to stoop to such levels. It didn’t matter that his real body had died and his actual soul rested in peace somewhere in heaven, and that his existence was confined to portraits - his dignity was still intact and he desired to keep it so.
“Ah, I remember so Phineas. However, these are grave times, and I must ask you to please aid me. I assure you it is not a tedious job. I merely wish you to pay a visit to your other portrait in Number 12, Grimmauld Place, and let me know if Sirius Black is still there at the house or not. Somehow I do not trust his carefree self to abide by my orders and stay where he is. So, will you please?”
“And may I ask why, Dumbledore, is this silly task so important?”
“You do not ask questions Sir! Don’t you remember your duty to assist the Headmaster of Hogwarts in any way required?!”
One of the oldest of his neighbours from his portrait on the adjoining wall practically bounced up and down as he said this and the Slytherin rolled his eyes. The red-nosed, corpulent Dexter Fortescue was always disturbing Phineas’ moments of peace. He was overly pompous all the time and Phineas couldn’t understand for the world of him how he had been appointed Headmaster once.
There was only one Headmaster portrait he wasn’t discomfited with, and that was the one of Everard Edgy who was currently quite uninterested to partake in any sort of dialogue and merely sat in his armchair, sipping wine. Everard was – not exactly a friend – but good company nonetheless. He was a sallow faced wizard who kept his nose out of others’ business and spent most of his time, as Phineas did, snoring or feigning sleep even while other conversations went on around him. He was definitely better than the ever eager to jump into a conversation Dexter Fortescue who was currently going on reprimanding him about his ignorance of what he should and shouldn’t do.
“I am very well aware of my duties, thank you Dexter.” He responded coldly. Dexter gave an indignant shake of his head but before he could as much as open his mouth to annoy him even further, Phineas turned his attention back to the current Headmaster who stood with his arms crossed behind his back, waiting patiently. However, Albus Dumbledore’s eyes were not twinkling like they usually did and there was a gloomy air surrounding him.
If nothing else, this was what persuaded Nigellus to concede to the man’s request.
“Well Dumbledore, I will see you in a few minutes then.” Phineas said, before striding out of his portrait and walking through the familiar tunnel that led him to his other portrait, off to find his great-great-grandson.
Phineas Nigellus Black sighed as he made the journey. He was in no hurry. However much he hated to admit it, he was tired.
He was tired of existing in a frame. Since a young age he had been one to enjoy adventure and thrills, to bask in the glory of being correct and ordering around his minions. He liked to be in control and to sit and relax while others did his work for him. Even if he had not really enjoyed teaching much, thanks to the young children who always thought they were correct and had no control whatsoever on their tongue or temper, he had still been a very accomplished Headmaster during his time. He loved running the school and ordering around Permano Peeves to carry out his work for him. Yes, he had lived a life of luxury even at Hogwarts. Despite being the Headmaster, he had hardly ever done any of the work – whether big or small – himself, unlike Albus Dumbledore and many others before him, as he instructed his faithful assistant Peeves on what was to be done.
Unfortunately he didn’t get to enjoy the same lifestyle once his real self died and he was painted into the portrait that was currently his home – enchanted to be alive. He was merely a shadow of his real self, yet the thoughts, the feelings and the attitude remained exactly as they had been during his life.
However the same couldn’t be said for his former assistant Peeves. The last he had heard, he had turned into a poltergeist who actually wreaked havoc all over Hogwarts. Not major havoc really, just fun. Surely he had gotten bored of his way of living, so he compensated it all after his death. Phineas highly disapproved of this sudden change in his character even if he – the Great Slytherin ex-Headmaster – had to do the bidding of others, merely painted in his portrait. It wasn’t that he disliked any of the Headmasters so far, just that he was bored of such an existence.
Sadly, nothing could be done about it so the man merely steered his thoughts away from his melancholic routine and stopped as he entered Grimmauld Place.
His eyes swept over the deserted room once. The walls were as pale green as ever; dust covering various pieces of furniture and the huge king sized bed in the middle of the room was empty. He marched through various portraits all over the house, not stopping to ‘chat’ with any of them but barely murmuring his greetings. This went on for a while until he reached the smallest bedroom in the house.
His great-great-grandson, Sirius Black sat right in that very bedroom, his shoulders slumped and his head between his hands.
The older Black couldn’t help but snigger at the irony. The little witch who resided in the portrait he currently occupied gave him an annoying glance before walking out of there. However Phineas, for once, didn’t care about how she had ‘mistreated’ him – his eyes were fixed on the younger Black. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one who felt imprisoned in his own home and bored of his lifestyle. Whether he had run away or not, the Black blood still ran in Sirius’ veins, and he knew there was no way that they could ever enjoy living in incarceration.
Coming to think of it, he was suddenly quite grateful that he at least had freedom while he lived. He came to the conclusion that despite of being a fit and fine human, if one had to stay ‘imprisoned’ and follow someone else’s orders, it was definitely much worse than being a portrait.
Yes, Phineas Nigellus Black definitely had a boring existence, but he had learnt to deal with it. After all, it was better than the situation his great-great-grandson was currently in, or worse, cackling around like a mad poltergeist and throwing away any ounce of dignity present.
Shaking his head and still sniggering quietly, he made his way back to his Hogwarts portrait, ready to inform Albus Dumbledore that Sirius was indeed present in the house, though he didn’t seem too happy about it.
A/N: Hello readers. I hope you liked this little piece of mine. I know I struggled a lot to write this down, since the story is something of the sort that I never write! Please do leave your views in the review box below - They'll make me happy. Constructive Criticism is welcome.