13 Days of All Hallows’ Eve: “Death by Portrait”
Welcome to MuggleNet’s 13 Days of All Hallows’ Eve, a limited series to bring fans short, Potter-themed spooky stories to celebrate the upcoming holiday. Check back in for a new tale every day leading up to Halloween.
The halls of Hogwarts are lined with faces watching students pass by. Sometimes a portrait will insert an instrument into their ear and turn their head to one side or another in an attempt to catch snippets of conversation to relay as gossip. While these are normal and perfectly harmless occurrences, there is cause for concern when it comes to one occupant of the thousands of frames decorating the castle walls.
The first report of an unfortunate incident involving this mysterious portrait came in the early years of the school, when a student was found on the floor of the prefects’ bathroom. This particular student had thought a midnight bath was a good enough reason to break curfew, but he found it wasn’t worth his trouble. He was found lying limply in a pool of blood, as he had gauged his head open on the stone floor upon impact. Above where the body lay was an empty portrait frame. The occupants, a few goldfish that usually swam idly around inside their painting, were nowhere to be found as the canvas itself appeared to have been severed from the frame. There was no trace of the missing canvas anywhere on the floor of the bathroom. It was as if it had been removed from within the frame itself and pulled away into a different painted universe by the perpetrator who intruded the frame, scaring off its occupant and leaving nothing but a bronze frame outlining a square of the stone wall it hung from.
There was no sign, other than this unusual phenomenon with the portrait, to explain what had startled the boy into slipping on the wet floor, so his death was ruled as a tragic accident. Every year following the incident, someone in the castle has been found mysteriously slain by no obvious attacker. The attacks never occur in the same spot but have been scattered throughout the halls and rooms of the school. The one thing they all have in common is an empty frame, with its canvas eerily ripped from the inside, hanging over or near the cold body. Whispers spread through the occupants of the paintings, as they worried which of them would be next to have their carefully painted homes torn away from them as another student was left with their life abruptly ended. The attacks seem to always occur at night while the other portraits are sleeping, but every now and then a portrait occupant will tell anyone who will listen about a horrible man with black, bottomless eyes who travels through the portraits, having no designated home of his own. This chilling stranger is dressed in threadbare robes, with a cruel look of hatred on his drawn face.
There’s speculation that this is the portrait of Nigel Tenebris, a warlock who was famous for keeping a strict measure of silence during the night. He was inflicted with an illness that kept him from sleeping the second the sun broke over the horizon, so hours of darkness were precious to him. He was hung for a charge of murder after years of rumors and strange disappearances of staff at his manor house. After his condemnation, Tenebris’s manor was stripped of valuables. There was an unframed canvas with the only existing portrait of Tenebris stroked on its surface. This was of no use to looters since it lacked a frame made from any sort of valuable material, so it was likely left untouched, destroyed, or perhaps ended up somewhere other than its original home. Maybe after all these years, the unframed portrait of Nigel Tenebris is crawling through the pictures of Hogwarts and enforcing his strict curfew on students who decide to venture out of bed during the precious few hours of darkness that are granted to the frustrated, murderous warlock.
For more, check out our other All Hallows’ Eve stories: