by Emily Neutron, Fifth Year, Ravenclaw
Subject of the Portrait: Prempillina ‘Prem’ Hardwick
Location of the portrait: Sixth Floor, just off the Grand Staircase. Turn right, and head toward the door to the stone bridge. The portrait is on your left, right before the door.
The castle here at Hogwarts seems to abound with portraits that convey cautionary tales. Some of these have been discussed in prior months, such as those of Balearic Gustaf Tyrvinggi and Willis Arthur Ambleton Milligant III. One of the more interesting ones here might be that of Prempillina ‘Prem’ Hardwick, 1801-1834. Prempillina, or Prem to her friends, was a student at Hogwarts starting in the Fall of 1812. The painting, however, seems to have been hung only recently. Prem is dressed in one of her favourite dresses for performing, and frequently may be found singing. Unfortunately, although the historical Prem Hardwick was a brilliant singer, the painted version is not terribly good. It seems possible for this reason that the painting might have spent quite a long time indeed in storage, and Prem herself is pretty irate about that, though she is really quite happy to talk to students — and quite forward.
Prem Hardwick’s life could well have been a disaster. Certainly, it was for a time, largely as a result of her own hard-headedness. She was born to a Wizarding family of means in Twickenham, outside of London. She showed promise as a witch, but she was all too aware of her skills, and perhaps thought herself a bit more skillful than she actually was. In her Fourth Year here at Hogwarts, she decided she would attempt to become an animagus, a full year before such things are usually taught here.
According to rumour, late in her Fourth Year, Prem successfully transformed herself for the first time. Unfortunately, it was also said to be the last time as she found herself unable to shift back into her human form. Professors and Healers attempted to cure her, but after months of treatment, both at Hogwarts and at St. Mungo’s, her features remained those of a velociraptor. Prem supposedly dropped out of Hogwarts; her wand was broken, and she spent the next five years living closeted in her parents’ estate in Twickenham, unwilling to be seen by Wizard, Witch or Muggle. Prem’s family, for their part, told friends that she had contracted a terrible case of Dragon Pox. They maintained the cover story for months until it had been so long that Prem should either have been cured or have died; they then claimed that she had died.
In 1821, at the age of 20, Prem’s life was said to have changed forever, and for the better, when Publius Tiberius Burnham, an itinerant Wizard, visited Twickehham. He had heard of the mysterious Hardwick daughter, and was in the process of putting together a revolutionary new show concept: a wizarding circus. He spent weeks gaining the trust of the Hardwick family, and once he had run of the house, sought out Prem in her chambers. He finally convinced her that she could be happy as she was, and did not have to conform others’ expectations of her. She could say, with pride, ‘this is me,’ and present herself to a society that might find her and her story compelling, rather than pitiable or repulsive.
Burnham was said to have opened his show as the Museum of Wizarding Curiosities later in 1821. The cast performed various feats of magic and physical prowess. Though she started the circus as a mere curiosity, supposedly, Prem Hardwick very quickly became one of their highlights as a singer very much in demand. It is said, in 1828 Prem conducted a solo tour of England and Wales, singing to packed theaters. Indeed, Prem found that despite her outward appearance, she came to be accepted, and could not only say, but even sing out, ‘this is me,’ comfortable in her own (saurian) skin. Word is that Prem went on to perform solo and with Burnham’s circus until her death.
Despite her acceptance and success, Prem Hardwick never married. It is believed she contracted influenza at the age of 32 on a trip to Scotland in winter. Apparently her dinosaur form was ill-equipped to venture into such colder climes, and her long snout meant that a respiratory infection was a true disaster. Studying her medical situation led to some short-lived (and somewhat hare-brained) theories on how dinosaurs became extinct. Of course, it turns out that it was a meteor impact that ended the dinosaurs, not horrible cases of the flu due to their long snouts. Prem Hardwick is said to have died four days before Valentine’s Day in 1834.
Interacting with the portrait
Much like Prem in her later life, the painting of Prem Hardwick is cheery and friendly. She loves to sing, but unfortunately, is nowhere near as good a singer as her historical counterpart. Other portraits on the sixth floor have been privately complaining about Prem since her placement in the hall, and whisper of having her moved to outside the Music Room, where she can at least be drowned out by students practicing the piano and other instruments. Of course, her singing might distract students in Music class, which might explain why this move has not yet been attempted. She knows songs from many different periods and genres; one of her favourites is a Muggle show tune from the 1960s called “I Feel Pretty.” She has also been know to break into a plain verse about how she’s too sexy for various things, such as her shirt (even though she’s wearing a dress), and has been known to shout “right said, Fred!” at the end. If you are feeling brave, you might ask her who Fred is.