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Painted Lady

Chapter Text

Harry didn’t like to think back on her years with the Dursley’s, but her current situation gave her plenty of time to think. Far too much time.

As much as her relatives liked to pretend that magic didn’t even exist as an idea, fairy tales is a common thing to be found read to and by children.

Witches in those tales, well, they were dangerous, clever, and not to be crossed. Witches knew great and terrible things, and were easily irritated enough to use such knowledge to entrap the unwary.

When Harry met actual witches and wizards, those stories were left abandoned. Clearly archaic warnings that have nothing to do with reality. Yes, they had great power and knowledge, but they were devoid of common sense and rather silly sometimes. Yes, there were evil sorcerers and dark witches, but they were certainly not that creative. Stand still and point your wand with a unforgivable on your lips was standard. (Except for Bellatrix, she was creative for all of her madness. Hence why she was so dangerous. But those of her caliber were far in between and well marked.)

Harry won her war mostly through luck, sheer persistence, and the ability to dodge.

One of the pitfalls of youth, Harry thought much, much later, was that one’s understanding of the world and who was in it is so narrow and small. Her whole world was Hogwarts, anyone who didn’t really focus on the school was completely non-existent to her.

Her naturally oblivious nature didn’t help either.

Not all of the people behind Voldemort were fighters.

Not all of them were openly behind him, some even Voldemort didn’t know he had.

Anonymous donations, coincidental favors, shadows who supported him without showing their faces.

This probably is what saved their lives and sanity when Voldemort came back the second time with just a sliver of his soul to direct his actions. They weren’t there for him to terrorize.

So when the war ended, they were careful, clever, and quite prepared to use obscure great and terrible arcane knowledge for their revenge.

There is, afterall, a well used tradition of witches cursing those that crossed them.

Even muggles knew that.

Harry sighed, even though breathing wasn’t really quite necessary anymore. She ran her hands along the edge of her prison again. Every centimeter had been observed and explored, but there wasn’t much else to do.

It was a beautiful frame, she admitted to herself. Gilded gold swirls etched onto wood, covering runes.

Moving paintings were overwhelmingly common among wizards, they were background noise practically. No one really paid much mind unless it was someone they once knew.

Harry never expected to be cursed into becoming one.

Clever and uncommonly cruel, just like the old stories.

But, if there was a way to become like this, then there was a way to unravel it.

Harry just needed to figure out the rules.

And break them.

Chapter Text

Presumably right after she was cursed, Harry was bundled up to where no one could hear her shouting once she recovered from her delirium. Everything was cloth covered and the very odd sensation of being lugged around without being touched.

Being unable to see almost kept Harry’s internal clock from being messed up. The more skills she has found to come from her cupboard days the more depressing it was to think about. So she shoved it to the side and focused. Which was difficult as days passed.

Eventually, the cover was taken off, and Harry blinked in the light and squinted up to see a hooded wizard. Or witch. It was rather hard to tell with the cloak.

It was also the first time she was able to see her own predicament. Being turned into paint, was… Harry was no wordsmith, but it was unnerving and Wrong. She knew that she felt off, but to have visual knowledge of what happened was shocking.

The being cackled, her voice identifying her as a witch.

“You thought it was all over, child? Foolish and ignorant. I will not have someone so willfully blind to her own heritage live to be the next shaper of our future.”

Really, all Harry had going for her now was defiance.

“Who are you!?” Harry had no wand, no friends, she wasn’t even standing face to face with her captor. She was a damn picture! Harry kept glaring while her mind unhelpfully reminded her of all the ways a painting is easily destroyed.

“I’m no fool to give out my true name, chit. If you wish an appellation to curse for the rest of your days, curse yourself. You aren’t the type to fear death. But a cage…” Harry had a strong feeling that the witch was smiling at her in a way that had nothing to do with joy, “A cage will break your spirit. Day in and day out, nothing to do but watch the world go by. None will hear you, none will see you.” Vicious satisfaction radiated from her. Harry carefully reigned in her immediate thought of how even as a painting she could still talk and interact with wizards. No need to ruin an escape path.

“Of course, it won’t do if you stay here, though.” The witch mused with fake thoughtfulness. Harry felt panic begin to creep up on her. “I am going to sell you to the muggles, if they see of hear you, well that’s breaking the Statute. If you do risk it regardless, muggles have a history of burning things they don’t understand. And wizards will only see you as a prank artifact, and protocol is to get rid of those. Especially on the continent.” Harry stared at her, horrified. Underneath the panic, her most hated feeling started welling up.

Helpless. She was helpless in the face of her enemy, Harry was a creature of action and there was nothing she could do. The only consolation was that it was only her and not her friends and family.

The witch tapped the canvas, Harry shuddering at the feeling of fingernails scratching the surface. She moved to cover Harry’s picture again, mummering to her for one last time.

“Goodbye, Harriet Potter. May madness take you and your spirit wither.”

The next thing Harry saw was an auction, and she was being sold.

Chapter Text

Harry stared at the walls that her prison now hung within. This was her eighth dwelling, and she tried not to think about that too hard. A modern apartment this time, a nice one actually if decorated rather blandly. Neutral tones with a masculine feel. She could see the expanse of the living room into the open kitchen, a small window gave her some sunlight.

That was the most elaborate coffee maker machine she has ever seen in her life.

This time she hasn’t seen the occupants. The men who placed her here were clearly professional movers and decorators. But they all felt rather furtive. Odd.

The place was empty, but Harry still waited until well after the sun went down before even trying to move. She’s been nearly caught before.

Before her curse, Harry was rather abysmal at wandless magic. She just didn’t have the time or the natural talent. Well, now she had plenty of time, and effort overcame talent given enough practice.

She carefully noted the time on the clock (Astronomy has become one of more useful classes to her disbelief. The position of the stars did affect things and it took a couple of years to recall her half-hearted studies and experiment what worked and what didn’t) and began to carefully layer her spells and charms in the right order.

Slowly, her hands push through and out the canvas, getting a grip on the frame. She paused for a moment to make sure she was balanced right, then pulled herself out of her cloth cage into the living room.

She was still made of paint, three dimensional, but Harry was reluctant to test her durability. She was vulnerable to water (Harry used to have socks, but now she was just glad that she found out  that way instead of losing a hand), so she steered clear of the kitchen.

But, for a few hours, Harry was free.

When the stars shifted too far, the picture will drag her back, but compared to the 27 seconds Harry had when she first managed this, it was heaven.

After exploring her new residence (just a bedroom, bathroom, and a closet full of the nicest muggle suits Harry has ever seen. Just who lived here?), Harry focused on figuring out how expanded her time out of the picture frame. She wished that she took runes and arithmancy, care of magical creature and divination is less than useless.

Nobody came to the apartment for weeks, Harry started to experiment with getting out during the day as it seemed like she was placed in a vacation home. Once the sixth week passed, Harry began making day trip plans once she managed to extend her time. To leave even for a couple of hours sounded like a dream.

Of course, once she was working up to that the occupant of the apartment came by.

The click of the key being unlocked startled her, but it was warning enough. Harry let go of her spells and let her cage snap her back into it’s frame, and quickly settled herself into a pose that required no effort to maintain.

She… may have scared some children before figuring out how to do that.

The door opened with a squeak and a tall, well dressed young man in a nice hat stepped in. He scanned the apartment with intense black eyes before closing the door behind him.

Then he pulled out a gun.

Harry may have gaped a bit stupidly for a moment.

The man checked the rest of the apartment before coming back into the living room, still scanning. Harry realized with a start that he may be feeling her eyes on him, so she carefully averted her eyes to not quite on him.

The man (She’s going to have to give him a nickname... Fedora, that was distinctive enough until she learned his real one) muttered under his breath but tucked his gun away. He seemed more relaxed, however his shoulders were still rather tense.

It takes hours, but Fedora does eventually unwinds. He kept looking around as though he could feel that there was someone else there but was unable to find anyone.

Harry could have sworn that she saw a flash of yellow eyes at one point.

He made himself a cup of coffee in a very tiny cup (Why?? Harry stared at it with bafflement. Why on earth would an adult want to drink out of a cup so small?), and got rid of his outer jacket and tie, showing more of his bright yellow shirt.

Then he pulled out more guns than Harry thought possible without expansion charms. Fedora (who was currently sans said namesake) started to meticulously take apart and clean every weapon. It was surprisingly relaxing to watch. And the two of them enjoyed a quiet evening together.

Harry will give it a few days, then she’ll snoop.

 

___________

Reborn subtly flared his Sun Flames again, usually he could spot Mist Flames but nothing showed up on his radar. He wasn’t sensing Mist Flames really, he was just hoping that it was a trap. A trap he can deal with. Violently.

But he wasn’t sure what to do with the fact that his safe house felt like it was saturated in potent Sky Flames.

Chapter Text

Snooping didn’t reveal much, Fedora kept no papers, received no calls or mail, had no visitors, didn’t even bring home anything but a newspaper in a language she couldn’t even read.

Fedora also kept really odd hours, he actually stayed out most of the time but there was no schedule for it. What really irritated Harry was his sporadic nighttime excursions. She was used to people with healthy sleeping habits to give her a chance to enjoy a taste of freedom.

And every single time she does end up out of her frame, when Fedora gets back he always acts a bit spooked.

He would recheck every room again, yesterday he even started tapping walls like he was expecting a secret compartment or door. Which… What?

Harry theorized that he had a really high sense of people, not even that retired soldier she housed with six houses ago was this aware.

It also kinda made her want to prank him. Just a little. Nothing much.

In school Harry never really indulged in pranks, despite what Snape chose to project onto her. Her humor was always sarcastic and a bit dark, rather than the boisterous reputation of her father and honorary uncles.

But she was bored enough to start feeling mischievous.

And the feeling of someone acknowledging her existence can be addicting.

Harry decided to start off with something simple. Hiding all of the coffee. Honestly, Fedora drank too much caffeine as it was. There was no way it was healthy.  

--------0O0-------

She was wrong. Very, very wrong.

If she had any idea that this would be the result, she would’ve built up to hiding the coffee instead of starting off with it.

His face though.

Harry firmly double checked her poker face, it wouldn’t do to start snickering now.

He looked like Hermione did at the end of 3rd year and was suffering from using the Time Turner too much.

Fedora’s been without coffee for two hours. He looked miserable and felt very, very, very murderous. Fedora glowered at the apartment in general before leaving, closing the door a little harder than necessary.  

Harry waited what felt like eternity, but was actually around twenty minutes, before she slipped out of her cage and quickly dispelled the disillusioned coffee bags tucked into the closet and put everything back.

Well… Harry looked consideringly at the mound of fancy beans.

Maybe she should hide them except for one.

All that caffeine was really not good for you.

A spike of guilt came up when she remembered how terrible he looked with his caffeine withdrawal hangovers. Fine, she’ll leave everything in the cupboards.

__________

When he finds out who took his coffee, he was going to shoot them in the damn kneecaps, and then torture them in the slowest and most painful way he knows how.

The local café didn’t know the difference between coffee and dirty mop water, and it only served to sour his mood even further.

Reborn couldn’t even watch his target for very long because he didn’t want to tip them off that they were being watched.

Sure, he was more than perfectly capable of completing a job without coffee, but for a long-term job like this he refused. He paid his dues, dammit.

Reborn carefully rechecks his lock for any sign of forced entry, but as usual there was nothing to find. He’s going to have to investigate the Apartment Manager. Discreetly.

He swung the door opened and felt his shoulders stiffen. Damn, they came back.

On one hand, staying in an apartment slowly being supersaturated in Sky Flames is very relaxing. On the other, he has no idea who they are and their intentions. He does not appreciate the persistent break-ins either.

He swings the shopping bag of coffee onto the countertop, opens the cabinet, and pauses.

His missing bags of coffee sat mockingly right where they were suppose to be.

There was a post-it stuck onto one of them.

In atrocious, spiky writing were the words ‘Cut back a little. ;)’.

Furious, Reborn snatched the post-it note only to be startled when it crumbled in his hand.

He rubbed his fingers and cautiously whiffed, and stared in bafflement. Paint? Why would anyone make a post-it note made entirely out of paint?

Reborn made a noise of disgruntled disgust, forget discreet. He was going to investigate the Apartment Manager and anyone else with access to his room now .

Chapter Text

Harry decided to scale back a bit from the coffee prank.

Being a painting didn’t warrant her a lot of substantial strength, so she shoved her weight bodily against the furniture.

Moving everything two inches off to the left was a really basic prank, but Fedora struck her as a fastidious person.

Was is too early after the first prank?

Naaaahh.

Really, it’s Fedora’s fault for not having anything interesting in the apartment for her to preoccupy with. Theoretical Mathematical books do not count. (In no way is she getting quickly addicted how he acknowledges her presence even when she’s not trying to get his attention. She’s not lonely. Really.)

Besides, this will give her time to focus on that idea she had for his clothes. It would take a lot of practice to wandlessly pull off that tricky charm that Lee Jordan was fond of.

__________o0O0o________

 

Reborn watched as the maintenance man trembled under his ire. The Apartment Manager was clear, far too lazy to have the motivation to break into his apartment. There were also no Skies among anyone else with even a minimum of access to the apartment complex. A few family members of the office workers had made illegal key copies, but they were to different apartments. One for the rather curvaceous married woman on the other side of the building, two others for their illegal substance fixes.

Nothing unusual really.

And if he traumatized the Manager enough to accidentally get a severe discount on his rent, well, not his fault for his lack of backbone and generous offer.

He’ll heal eventually.

The head maintenance man, though. He was clearly hiding something even if he answered his other questions honestly.

___________o0O0o__________

Harry sighed, looking around. Fedora was really taking his time coming back.

Everything was shifted and Harry was a bit bored with practicing her charm.

It was too good to use right away, but Harry was still antsy.

She glanced around the bedroom, then paused as her eyes dragged back to the set of drawers. Harry carefully pulled out the top drawer and gave the contents a considering look.

She wondered how long it would take him to notice?

______________o0O0o___________

Reborn sighed as he shut the door behind him. His inquires turned out to be a dead end, the maintenance head was only hiding the fact that this particular apartment had a messy murder a few occupants back. Not really something Reborn cared about.

(And if a small part of him was just relaxing in the bask of Sky Flames, then he strangled it ruthlessly. He will not succumb to someone he hasn’t even met.)

He was going to have to take drastic measures. Even if he hated setting up camera systems on his own residences… Wait.

Reborn turn and stared at the livingroom.

Something was off.

Reborn cautiously walked towards the couch, then paused, staring at the space left.

Someone had moved the furniture.

He looked sharply at everything in the room. Yes, everything was moved about two inches off.

If his job didn’t require judging distances by millimeters he wouldn’t have noticed so quickly.

Reborn huffed, then rubbed his hand over his face.

Dammit, he was tired.

Whoever is doing this didn’t do anything that couldn’t be ignored by sleep.

Reborn swiftly went through his nightly routine before allowing himself a controlled fall onto his bed. Shuffling under the covers, Reborn caught something out of the corner of his eye.

Blinking, he turned his head and gazed at the ceiling feeling flabbergasted when he realized exactly what he was seeing.

Reborn briefly cursed his love of fine things that extended to vaulted ceilings.

Especially since all of his socks were stuck on it. In a pattern.

Bullet holes. Reborn vowed silently.

Someone was racking up a debt of bullet holes.