"What, my dear? You forgot the password? Well, isn't that just too bad."

The Fat Lady in the portrait looked down at the hapless second year girl with a mix of irritation and pity. "But really, it's not exactly my fault, is it? No, of course I can't let you through. Rules are rules, dear; they're there for a reason. You just sit down on the floor and wait, and hopefully someone will come along presently."

With a mutinous look on her face, the brown-haired girl opened her mouth as if to say something – but realizing the futility of arguing with the guardian of Gryffindor Tower, she thought better of it and did as told.

The Fat Lady gave her a beatific smile. "Oh, don't fret. We'll have us a nice little chat while you wait. Did you know I was a Gryffindor, too? Yes, it seems strange to think of me as a little girl in a black robe, does it not? In my day, it was the portrait of a Griffin that guarded the entrance, of course. About two hundred years ago, the Board of Governors decided that was a bit too obvious, really, and chose me instead. Quite an honor – the other portraits were rather jealous." She looked down modestly while pushing her stiff corkscrew curls into place with one hand.

The pleased expression did not last long. "If they knew all the indignities I have to put up with, they certainly wouldn't feel that way! Students waking me up at all hours of the night when they should be in bed, getting all upset simply because I took a few minutes to visit a friend, yelling at me because they forgot the password – I'm not blaming you, my dear, you've been perfectly reasonable, but really, it does get to be a bit much sometimes," she said crossly.

"And how would you like to be known as 'The Fat Lady'? As if I don't have any feelings. Just because everyone these days seems to think looking like a twig is attractive doesn't mean a big-boned lady need be ashamed of herself, does it now? And I do have a name, even if everyone seems to have forgotten that fact." Looking expectantly at the girl, she picked up her pink fan and started fanning herself coyly.

"Would you tell me what it is, Madam, please?" the girl said politely, a resigned expression on her face.

"Well, how sweet of you to ask." The Fat Lady beamed at her enthusiastically. "My name, dear, is Gertruda Athelyna de Brunnesley. My husband was a governor of the school – such a handsome man. He bought me this pink silk dress, you know, just for the occasion. The most beautiful gown I ever owned. 'You look lovely, my dear', he said to me. 'And that is how the world will always remember you.'" The Fat Lady dabbed a tear from her eye with a lace-edged handkerchief. "How I wish that they would have painted a portrait of him, too – but alas, only I remember his face now." She looked at the girl wistfully for a moment. "It does get a bit lonely at times. There is Violet, of course, she's a dear, and it's so nice to have a friend in the castle. It would be lovely to have a man around again, though."

She looked at the girl conspiratorially. "Can you keep a secret?"

The girl nodded wide-eyed.

The Fat Lady cautiously looked left and right before leaning forward and continuing in a stage whisper, "You know that Professor Snape? I think he fancies me. At least he sure hangs around here an awful lot. Almost every evening I see him skulking around corners, thinking I won't notice him. Yes, I do think dear Severus is quite taken with me, really." She straightened back up and closed her fan coquettishly. "Not that he's my type. Not at all."

The girl hid her mouth behind her hand, trying not to laugh.

"You find that amusing?" the Fat Lady said in a shrill voice. "Go ahead then, laugh. They all do. No one remembers all that I have done and suffered for you, even keeping out a murderer at great personal cost. Oh no, you all forget that. No one appreciates…"

At that moment another student walked up. "Occamy eggs," he said, and the girl got up with a sigh of relief.

"Oh, very well," the Fat Lady said indignantly, and the portrait swung out to let the two students in.

"It's been very nice talking to you, Mrs. de Brunnesley," the girl said timidly before going through the entrance hole.

"Yes, well, go on, hurry along now; I can't stay like this forever," the Fat Lady said gruffly.

Yet as she swung back against the wall, there was a smile on her face.

"The little girl - she remembered my name."