By Talula Shippe
Paintings! We know them, almost to the point of hardly noticing them. The walls of Hogwarts are decorated with a tonne of magical portraits, some more coherent than others, all of which possess a sort of sentience or pseudo-consciousness that allows us to interact with them. They can be friends, rumour-collectors, bouncers, even spies. But can they also be a threat to students? Today, readers of the Owl Post, I present that question and many others, in order to come to terms with the arrival of what have been aptly dubbed the Skeleton War paintings.
We all know Ser Lorelei as well, the valiant knight portrait who fights her own personal, ongoing skeleton war in the bottom of the grand staircase; though many of us have been particularly privy to her calls as of late. About two weeks ago, Ser Lorelei began crying out for assistance in not an ongoing war, but an upcoming one. Coincidence or not, at about the same time, new paintings appeared around the castle, and they were HARDLY inconspicuous. Now I’m no art specialist or anything, but c’mon: the Birth of Venus? The Scream? The bloody Mona Lisa? These were paintings that took me off-guard with just how obvious they were.
Suspicions rose even more when they seemed to ignore me and my friends. They were not like the paintings of Hogwarts at all! Were they being shy about their new home? It was hard to say, until one day, Ser Lorelei changed her cry AGAIN, beseeching us to reveal these paintings for what they truly were. That word, “reveal”, struck a chord with me, as I imagine it did with others. Now I won’t say WHERE I found a certain spell to test on the paintings, only that it worked, and it worked so well that the subjects’ skin (and fur, in some cases) melted away to reveal skeletons!
In a way, this created more questions than provided answers. And so, after consulting with the Owl Post writers, I embarked on a self-imposed quest to riddle out some of the mystery behind the so-called Skeleton War paintings.
What do we know about them, just by observing them? Well, they all have shiny new gold frames, and tend to feature recognisable subjects. Bring a muggleborn with you if you decide to seek them out, because their keen eye will easily pinpoint these portraits, as they are extremely well known in muggle culture. It’s also been noted that all but two of the paintings have a signature of what appears to be an M on them. Now this could be what many in mystery-solving circles call a “red herring” or it COULD point to something significant. I happen to think it’s worth noting, just in case!
As of the time of this writing, there are twelve known paintings scattered about the castle, and they are silent as the grave (not to be creepy, but tis the season). Nobody’s sure who put them up, though it seems popular to assume it’s the headmistress’s work (who was not reached for comment, but letters to the Editor are welcomed and appreciated, ma’am!). Personally I have a theory about where they came from, but first, we have to address an equally big question: why famous paintings?
As one student I interviewed put it, “Drawing attention is usually not what malicious things do, they usually don’t want to be seen before attacking.” So why hide in plain sight? Why leave yourself susceptible to being scouted and watched continuously? There is the very real possibility that this is just someone getting into the spirit of Halloween, who found a particular charm that they wanted to show off, and hatched a plan to throw up copies of famous paintings with the charm on them just to get everyone creeped out. But why would Ser Lorelei be so easily fooled? Why IS she so worried about us, when normal paintings, even magical ones, present absolutely no threat to us students?
Well, here’s my theory: they’re not paintings at all. They are actually manifestations of some sort, maybe an undiscovered magical creature, that can take on the form of a painting as camouflage! It’s a terrifying thought, but one day, perhaps soon, the painting-creatures might shed their disguises and roam the halls in their true skeletal forms. And THEN everything will go pear shaped, won’t it?
Some other students have shared similar theories with me: that the paintings are portals to some kind of skeleton realm, and one day, they’ll come spilling out. We just don’t know… but then again, those of us who have seen everything from acromantulas, to transfigured student-wolves, to the clocktower itself attack this school, know that danger can lurk inside these walls. So why not hang from them as well?
The head boy himself had some sage advice when it came to preparation:
“Study up on your defensive spells and a few choice curses that might be useful. Attend Interhouse dueling to learn some strategies. Fifth years and above, definitely work on your shield charms. They’re tough, but very useful…If the skeletons do wind up being real, aim for the knees. They’re much less dangerous, or at least easier to avoid, if they’ve got no legs to stand on (literally).”
Another wise-beyond-her-years student made a point of telling me, “KEEP YOUR WAND WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES,” and I absolutely could not agree more. I also think it may benefit us to seek to travel in groups, especially the younger students seeking out older ones to walk with between classes, until this whole situation can be sussed out.
Although the rumours persist and bounce between the skeletons being a looming threat to being a mere prank, at the end of the day, we must remember that we are to conduct ourselves with respect for the paintings at all times. Yet another student had the insight to share this:
“Please don’t burn them. Right now we don’t know anything, after all they don’t talk. And nobody has been harmed yet, not even our regular paintings. So don’t panic, and don’t hurt them just because you might be scared or worried.”
With that said, I agree. Let’s not panic yet, but keep ourselves vigilant, with eyes wide open, ever conscious of what stirs on our walls, around every corner. And if that very thought doesn’t creep you out, one very clever prankster might be pouting in the shadows, all this time.