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A Tale of Two Portraits by Mad Hatter
Chapter 1 : Chapter 1
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 2


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A/N: Gubby's random challenge gave me (well, Taryn) the pairing of Fat Lady/Sir Cadogan, but I think we all know what the real ship in this story is.  Many thanks to everyone at SAYS!







I guess it all started with those annoying First Years. It always does, doesn't it? Another year, another bunch of annoying, whiny, password-forgetting-- but I'm digressing. A group of students came up and spent far too long discussing what in the name of Helga the password was.

"So, have you figured the password out yet?" I asked, and the little First Years (I didn't know people could actually be that small) looked really excited.

"It's codswallop!" One of them squeaked. Oh, whoop-di-doo. I was about to let them in when I heard a voice coming closer, sounding like it was coming down the corridor.

"Are you insulting the fair maiden that guards Godric Gryffindor's chambers? How dare ye!" A knight atop a fat grey pony galloped through the paintings on the corridor, much to the dismay of their occupants. He arrived next to me quite out of breath, and as he tried to bow he toppled out of the saddle . His pony trotted off into the next painting, and I had an urge to smack its rump to make it go faster. As I turned back to the rather rude intruder, I found him challenging the tiny First Years that were still standing there. They looked utterly terrified of this idiot.

"What did you think you were doing, you scumbags! Come challenge me like proper men, sword to sword! What vagabonds do you think you are? I'll get you-" I just couldn't listen to him go on any longer, so I let the First Years into the common room; I don't think the relief on their faces has ever been plainer.

"What do you want?" I snapped, thoroughly fed up with this scumbag.

"I merely came to save you from those insolent cowards, my dear. The braggarts were saying that something you said was codswallop, and I couldn't bear to see you sit there while you were being treated with such disrespect! It's despicable!" I rolled my eyes.

"They were saying nothing of the sort - codswallop is the password. Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to visit Violet. Good day!" I almost ran out of my portrait, and there were many 'excuse me's and 'pardon's to be said to the other paintings. Finally, I arrived at Vi's portrait, in the Great Hall's antechamber. She looked at me enquiringly as I sat down in a huff and I caught my breath before responding to the raised eyebrow.

"Have you ever seen that knight - the idiot with the grey pony? I don't know what his name is, or where he came from, but by Salazar is he annoying! The rogue bursts into my painting and tries to scare off the First Years! And then he says he was 'protecting me'. It's a load of balderdash, if you ask me!" Vi nodded vigorously, as best friends are supposed to do, and I smiled. "So, how was your day, Vi?" I asked, feeling a little better now that I had that off my chest.

She rolled her eyes (we could be twins if we looked anything alike) and took a deep breath. She hadn't looked particularly troubled, but I knew my friend well enough to know that something (or someone) was definitely up.

"Well, Walrus over there-" she stuck her thumb over to indicate the next painting: it was of a wizard with a walrus moustache. His real name was Walter, or Wallace or something, but between the two of us we just called him Walrus. Easy to remember, and subtly insulting at the same time.

Thankfully, Walrus wasn't in his painting at the moment (he rarely was - I'm not sure why), so we didn't have to listen to another tirade about how his real name was Westley, or Warwick or Washington. Thank Merlin.

"Well, he was going on about my weight again! Saying that if I drunk less, then maybe a diet would be in my favour! The git, he thinks he has any right to criticise me! I told him to go drown his protests with those drunk scholars on the Third Floor. And then he told me that I should curb my tongue, and that it would do me good! Oh, how I wish that I had a wand - maybe I could get one of the students to do something horrible to him?" Vi's face lit up at the thought, and I wondered who we could trick into doing it. That Third Year, Granger, was good with a wand, but far too goody two shoes to actually do what we wanted. Those Weasley twins, however... Well, that could work.

Vi seemed to have calmed down now that she had got that off her chest though, and was back to her normal self. I could tell, because she very quickly changed the subject to her favourite one of discussion: gossip she overheard. She was in a particularly good place to do this, and quite often was the first portrait to hear the latest news.

"I heard the Headmaster complaining about the Dementors again. I never had to meet them while I was alive, but they must be pretty bad if Dumbledore is whining, right?" She asked me. Strangely, it was pretty old news: Dumbledore had been complaining about the Dementors ever since they had arrived at the start of the year. I knew it was a hot topic of conversation with the students too, since that was all they seemed to be talking about these days: that, and Sirius Black.

"Well, it's to protect the students from Sirius Black, and if the Headmaster really had a problem with it then he would remove them. But honestly, it gets a little boring to hear all the Gryffindors go on and on and on about it. Hasn't anyone snogged anyone else lately? That's what they usually talk about." I said, shaking my head. It wasn't like I lived on the who-snogged-who gossip, like my friend Violet, but it was certainly better than the stuff going around at the moment. You'd think that the students had never heard of Death Eaters and the way they have it in for that Potter boy, the way this was going. Absolutely ludicrous.

Vi lowered her voice, and with a slightly superior expression, imparted her next tidbit of gossip. "I also heard, from none other than Professor McGonagall herself, that Black is Potter's godfather. Doesn't that make this whole saga more interesting?" She said with a gleeful look on her face. "I mean, that's like family! What has the world come to?" Now, I hadn't known that. It just didn't make sense... Violet had probably never met Black, but I had. Woken me up more than a few times with his midnight antics, he had. I stopped asking what he was doing after a while - there was no point. He and James Potter, the Potter boy's father, they were thick as thieves. To receive the news that he was now trying to kill his best friend's son, was not only extremely unnerving, but it just didn't lie right. Sure, Vi had certainly heard it from a reliable source, but I couldn't help but doubt her words. Before I had a chance to voice my thoughts however, Walrus returned.

"Gossiping like old hags again, are we?" he asked us. Can you now see why neither of us liked him? I doubt he had a tactful paintstroke on his canvas.

"Hello Warrington." I said in a dull voice. I had to be polite to him; there was no point in lowering myself to his level. Vi, however, didn't bother with that courtesy.

"My name is not Warrington! It's-" he began angrily, but Vi cut him off.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever Wally. Go back to where ever you came from, considering you’re probably just here to insult us. Go insult those concubines in the painting of Edgar the Fourth, why don’t you? They’d probably thank you for it!” She said snidely, and i felt a pang of sympathy for her – sure, she was quite rude to Walrus, but she had to spend every day next to him! And all three of us had been in the castle a very long time, let me assure you. Walrus huffed, and walked straight out of the painting again – what a relief. I thought I should probably be going too – one of the bad things about being one of the portraits protecting things was that students (and teachers) relied on you. I was willing to bet that there was an angry mob outside the portrait hole as I sat there.

“Vi, I’ve got to go – some students probably want access to their common room. In any case, I should probably try and catch up on some sleep; those stupid students come into the Tower at all hours of the day and night. Doubt I’ve got a decent night’s sleep in a week!” I yawned widely for effect, and smiled at my very best friend. “Come visit me next time, alright? We don’t see enough of each other these days.”

Vi smiled at the thought, agreeing to come visit me, adding, “I’ll do anything to escape from bloody Walrus here. Expect me soon!” She kissed me on the cheek, and I made the arduous journey back home.

There were no angry mobs back at Gryffindor Tower, thankfully. That was just about the only thing to be thankful for though - add in Walrus telling me I should lose a few pounds, and the scene would have been perfect. You want to know why? The stupid knight was back. Breathing deeply, I closed my eyes and willed for him to go away. It didn’t work. Why couldn’t I have mind powers? Whoever painted my painting (I forget – it’s been a while) must have forgotten that teeny detail. I still had my eyes closed as the git spoke up.

“Look, I do believe that we started off on the wrong foot. Those braggarts were being insufferably rude to you though, and I just had to show them their proper place! Sir Cadogan, at your service.” I looked to see that he had already gotten off his pony (or fallen off – it wouldn’t have surprised me), and was now struggling to get his helmet off. Not dignifying him with a reply, I turned to see that a boy, with brown hair, brown eyes and nothing particularly remarkable about him, was approaching. Before I could ask him the password he grunted out “Codswallop.” and I had no choice but to let him in immediately. I had hoped that I could possibly keep him there for conversation (because even moody adolescents were more appealing to talk to than Sir Codswallop next to me).

"If you're at my service, then you can perform a service by going away. Far away." I said, wondering whether I would be able to get some sleep. I doubted it. "Well?" I said impatiently to the git-in-armour still standing next to me.

"As you wish, my lady." What? Did he just agree? When did the world turn upside down, and why wasn't I there for it? I was too shocked to even reply, and when I saw him struggle to get back on his unfaithful pony (at least the pony had some sense) I think I could have died of shock if I wasn't an oil on canvas.

He galloped off without a word, and when someone asked to be let in, I didn't even hear them. The whiny voice eventually penetrated my thoughts, and I let them in, not bothering to talk to them.

Still in a state of shock, I slept.

***

That was back in September - the real story starts on Hallowe'en. Let me take you back...

Before I do however, I have a small interruption. If you think that this is going to be a spooky Hallowe'en tale with zombies and ghosts, then don't bother. Sure, we might meet a ghost or two, but whatever you're thinking isn't right. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes...

The night was dark, since it was Autumn and all, and all the students were down at the annual Hallowe'en feast. I hear from Vi that it is always an amazing sight, with huge pumpkins and candles and the like, but I've never seen it. All the ghosts were down there too (sorry to disappoint you), and it was quiet. Too quiet.

As one who could never get enough sleep, I always liked the 31st of October; I could sleep for hours without being disturbed. That night obviously wasn't my night though, because it seemed like I had only just closed my eyes when I heard a sound. Opening my eyes unwillingly, I saw none other than Sirius Black in front of me. I wouldn't have recognised him if it wasn't for a picture I had seen in a student's Daily Prophet: I knew him as a happy healthy seventeen year-old, and he was quite the opposite of that now. His hair was matted and dirty, and whatever Sirius Black had said about girls liking beards, this was going a bit too far. His eyes were sunken and he had a haunted, hungry expression that I definitely didn't like. And all that was before I saw the knife in his hand.

Some strange instinct inside me had my mouth open and talking of its own accord - before I could stop it, I had asked the Azkaban escapee "Password?". Of all the things I could have said, that was the stupidest. The boy I had so frequently shouted at, now a man, looked at me incredulously for a second before saying in a harsh growl, "Open up."

The strange side of me that had asked him the password before denied him entry. "No unless you know the password." Where were those words coming from? The light glinted off the weapon he held far too close to me for comfort.

"Open up! He's in there!" He demanded, the hungry glint more prominent now. I was thrown completely off guard - 'he was in there'? I had seen the Potter boy go down to the Feast!

"If you mean Harry Potter, then he's not there!" I said, feeling the strange (and slightly irrational) need to correct him. He looked confused at my words, and forgot to be harsh as he spoke again.

"I don't mean Harry!" he said, as if it was obvious. Probably remembering that he was trying to force his way into the common room, he made the same demand again.

"Open up, or I'll force you too!" Now didn't that sound scary? He made a point of readying his knife so that it was in a prime position to rip the canvas right through my head, but, finding courage I didn't know I had, I shook my painted curls, not letting him in. He seemed to have had enough of that game, and lunged for my painting. I felt a horror unlike anything I had ever felt before as he relentlessly destroyed my portrait. It was like watching from above as your whole world gets blown up: in other words, a very surreal experience. Not only was he shredding the rest of my home, but I could see - and in some way feel - him knifing me too. It wasn't painful, as technically I can't feel pain, but it was definitely a traumatic experience. The courage I had felt moments before failed me, and I ran out of my painting, not looking back.




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