Chapter 1 : The Dementors on the Train.
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The Joker and Her
The Dementors on the Train
Brienne Christie walked down the short carriages of the Hogwarts Express, peeking into compartments in search of an empty one. As one of the last new students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to actually get onto the train, Brienne was passing full carriages containing people her age who knew each other greatly, or first-years who were awkwardly but eagerly conversing about Quidditch teams and discussing which House they were to be placed in when they finally arrived at Hogwarts School. Brienne felt like in another life she could have joined them.
Sighing, she surveyed the moving train through bleary eyes. Her blurry vision seemed to be eternally tinged a gloomy grey, and the sounds of excitement and joy surrounding her didn’t quite penetrate the bubble that she had crafted around herself, fading in and out as she passed and never quite clear.
Knocking on the door of another compartment, Brienne tugged on her long black Hogwarts robe, trying to imbue it with some form of style. She had a fleeting and nostalgic thought of the figure-hugging blue dresses she had to wear at her old school and decided that perhaps her new uniform wasn't that bad. She thought that in retrospect, it wasn’t the biggest thing in her life that had turned upside-down in the last few months.
"Come in," came a female, somewhat dreamy voice from inside the carriage.
Brienne opened the sliding door, only to find it occupied by just one young girl, curled on the seat next to the window. Younger looking than Brienne, the girl had grey eyes with long light blonde hair pulled into a braid. Her black robe had a blue crest adorned on it with a picture of a bronze eagle, an ‘R’ emblazoned over the bird. As she stared up at Brienne from the magazine that she had been reading, her large round eyes appeared to glitter with energy.
"Um, is it alright if I sit in here? Everywhere else is, um, occupied."
"Of course you can," she said kindly, returning her gaze to the magazine. She had a wispy and soft voice that added to her dreamy quality.
Brienne sat opposite the girl, took out her wand -- willow, nine and a half inches, phoenix feather, slightly yielding -- from her pocket and rubbed it on her robes, trying to make it cleaner. They sat for a few minutes in silence, the mysterious blonde girl crossing her legs and staring absent-mindedly at her magazine. After a few uncomfortable minutes, Brienne cleared her throat.
The girl looked up, seemingly forgetting that she had a companion, and spoke, "You're new, aren’t you?" She put aside her magazine, which then Brienne realised that she had been holding upside-down.
"Yes. How did you know?" Brienne’s gaze sank to her feet -- if her newness was spotted so easily, then she would not be looking forward to the coming days.
"I didn't see you last year. I mean, you aren’t a first-year, are you?"
"I suppose not."
"How old are you, may I ask?"
"I'm fifteen, and starting my fifth year. I'm from Beauxbatons."
The girl smiled encouragingly. "Oh yes, your accent shows."
Brienne blushed in embarrassment; she hadn't realised she still had an accent. It usually went away after speaking solely English for a while.
"I'm Brienne Christie," Brienne said, thinking it appropriate to introduce herself, "and you?"
"Luna Lovegood,” she said breezily, “Although some people call me Loony Lovegood. It's rather funny, isn't it? Funny play of words."
Brienne felt a wave of sympathy for Luna, despite the girl’s lack of distress or embarrassment over this nickname. She simply sat, twiddling her thumbs, staring dreamily out of the window at the passing scenery.
They two sat for the best part of an hour, mostly in silence. Brienne appreciated how Luna didn’t seem to have the need to talk and appeared perfectly happy to sit in a quiet compartment alone with a perfect stranger from another land. This comforted Brienne, as she simply didn’t have the energy to converse much: she had too much going through her head. New uniform, new people, new school, (mostly) new country. Goodness knew her life had changed, and if Luna asked much more about her life, Brienne wouldn’t exactly know how to answer. But, thankfully, Luna barely said a word, and before long returned to reading her magazine.
But then -- just as the girls seemed to fall into a comfortable companionship -- the train slowed to a dramatic stop, and all of the lights went out. Luna looked up, having only noticed that the train had stopped because the landscape had stopped passing the window. At the abrupt stop, Brienne's heart jumped to her throat. Her nerves building, Brienne looked at Luna to see if this was routine. Her companion shook her head, looking puzzled. They could hear the confused murmurs of students up and down the train. Brienne stood, opened the carriage door and stuck her head out to see what was happening. Opposite them at the same time, a boy somewhat her age, perhaps a little younger, did the same thing, and their heads knocked together.
"Hey, watch what you're doing!" the boy snarled. He had a green crest on his robes and silver-blonde hair. Brienne narrowed her eyes as the boy shut his door in her face. He was certainly someone to avoid.
Returning to her seat, Brienne couldn't help but notice that everything had gotten significantly colder. Wrapping her thick robes around herself Brienne stood to check the window was shut. It was. Frozen shut, in fact.
Worriedly, Brienne opened the carriage door again, ignoring Luna's comment ("Cold, isn't it? Oh, I am hungry, I hope they have that pie they had at the feast last year -- that was lovely...") and poked her head out for a second time, before immediately jumping back.
Outside their carriage and a little to the side floated a tall clocked figure with scabby, bony arms. It was facing the inside of another carriage and those who occupied it. Just seeing it made ice grip Brienne's heart. Her breath caught in her throat, and the terrible, sharp sadness clouded her mind and sank her heart.
Sensing that Luna was joining her at the door, Brienne turned and saw another one of the creatures gliding down the corridor, straight toward their carriage. Gasping simultaneously, Luna and Brienne froze in awe. The spectre hovered in front of them, the air getting colder still. Brienne's hands were shaking, and her fear reached its' peak as the creature took a mighty breath in, making her feel as though the warmth was being sucked out of her body. All at once, Brienne slammed the door shut and the two girls pressed their bodies against it, praying that the creature couldn't get in. They could hear the creatures' harsh, gasping breaths through the thin compartment door.
"What are t-they?" Brienne asked Luna, her voice shaky.
Luna seemed peculiarly calm now that the creature was locked in the other side. She smiled at Brienne. "I'm not sure. Daddy said something about Cloaked Farnzies coming to the school this year."
"What on Earth are Cloaked Farnzies?"
"Well, Daddy says they glide around gathering warmth...but there's not a lot of warmth here, so they can't be around for too long."
It began to dawn on Brienne why people called her Loony Lovegood.
After a while of struggling to keep the door closed against the cloaked creature, it seemed to give up, and warmth slowly returned, enveloping the two girls. The lights came back on and the train started to move again, sending Luna and Brienne flying into their seats. Her breath no longer heaving, Brienne got seated comfortably and the ice and fear around her heart began to disappear, for the now muted pain to take over, again.
A few minutes later, a female voice sounded across the train, "Sorry for tha' dis'urbance. The Demen'ors were just scanning the train as a safety precaution. We will be stopping a' Hogsmeade Station soon. Fank you."
As the voice died away, there was a soft murmur that could be heard from across the train, which appeared to be the students discussing the disturbance from the Dementors. Brienne could hear the boy from the opposite carriage raging at his friends.
"Dementors? Dementors! What do they think they're doing? Just they wait until my father hears about this; there will be an inquiry..."
Brienne rolled her eyes. She hadn't escaped the spoiled princesses.
At Beauxbatons, it was hard to identify a friend, as a lot of girls looked very similar, with their long silvery blonde hair, navy blue eyes and smooth complexions. Despite being included in this unspoken tradition, Brienne was much shorter for her age and was slightly rounded, and -- more recently -- had the washed-out, pallid face of an invalid.
A few minutes later, there was a swift knock on the compartment door and Brienne jumped slightly, still rattled. The door slid softly open, and an older man with shabby robes and greying hair stepped in, his arms braced on either side of the door. He surveyed the two girls, and smiled warmly.
"Hello. Just checking that everyone's all right after that disturbance. Not feeling too horrible?"
Brienne and Luna both shook their heads without saying a word.
"Good. Don't worry too much, it won't happen again."
The man stepped out again, and closed the door behind him. Luna and Brienne glanced at each other in puzzlement, before drifting back into their daydreams.
After a while, the train pulled to a stop, and Brienne and Luna grabbed all of their close-at-hand belongings and started to exit the train, along the way being squashed in between a dark boy with dreadlocks and a tall one with red hair and glasses. Finally stepping off of the train, Brienne and Luna squeezed through the crowds to a beautiful lakeside. The platform was packed with students of all shapes and sizes. Brienne could hear a man with a gruff voice yelling, "Firs-years! Firs-years this way please! Firs-years!"
Brienne stopped walking against the pushing throng, blinked and turned to Luna, who suggested she go and ask the man where she was supposed to be. The younger girl set off, sitting alone and waving dreamily from the top of a floating carriage that began to pull itself down a winding road.
Brienne turned, shivering in the chilly September breeze and moved to where the voice came from, and found herself standing in front of a huge man, at least double her height and five times her weight. He had a large wild beard which when combined with his hair, covered most of his face. He was a truly intimidating sight.
"Ah, you're the Christie girl, ain't yeh? Uhh..." he bellowed over the excited shouting of the students making their way around the lakeside. He consulted a sheet of paper in his hand, "Bree-en?"
Brienne nodded, gulping, and the large man took her by the arm (his hand was big enough to swallow her whole limb) and took her over to the lakeside, where a large group of indisputably first-years were standing. There were a dozen small row-boats bobbing in the water.
They waited for a few moments until most of the calling and shouting from the older students had subsided slightly, before the giant man puffed his chest out importantly and began to speak,
"Righ', we're all gonna be goin' on these boats across the lake to Hogwarts. I'm Hagrid; I'm th Gamekeeper o' Hogwarts. After goin' across the lake, yur' goin' inside the castle, where you will be sorted into yer' houses. Any questions?"
The first years - all of whom were at least up to Brienne's elbows in height -- looked at each other nervously and then up to Brienne.
Hagrid continued after nobody spoke, "Righ', off we go then, four to a boat, Brienne you have a boat to yerself. Come on then, off we go!"
The first years squelched off after the Gamekeeper and pushed each other into the boats, laughing and screaming. Brienne stared at them; this was certainly an inelegant way of introducing new students to the school. Another way that this school would surely be different from her last. Another way that she would have to behave.
Another way her life had changed, forever.