The Joker and Her
Brienne was cringing. When all of the first-years had settled in the rocky little rowboats- four to each- Brienne, who could hardly fit into one on her own, heard someone laughing from the floating carriages and yelling "Look at her!"
She scowled as the boats sped forward magically over the glass-like black water, her ponytail flying behind her as she saw Hogwarts Castle for the first time.
Brienne’s first thought was that it was stunning. Huge, grey, with enormous turrets and towers, and along with the black Forest and the glassy lake, which were both undoubtedly filled with magical creatures, the whole place had a glistening aura. Brienne's eyes glowed with awe, and she found herself captivated by the enormous structure as they grew closer to the shore. She couldn’t help but make comparisons to her old school, Beauxbatons; Hogwarts appeared so huge and grand, so stately compared to the elegant fortress that she used to call home.
After about ten minutes, the boats completed their passage to the other side of the lake, bumping against the bank as if they couldn’t wait to be rid of their passengers. The first-years, Hagrid and Brienne got out and walked through the grounds, passing by several large greenhouses, and a huge tree that seemed to quiver angrily as they proceeded past it. There was a slight breeze which made some of the students shiver; Brienne hitched her shoulders up from the chill. Some of the lights were on in the castle, and they gave the impression of warm comfort. Brienne couldn’t wait to get inside.
They walked up some stone steps to an enormous wooden door which was taller than all of them put together. Hagrid stepped forward and opened the door with a hand the size of a dustbin lid, and the new students trooped into the castle. Inside, there was a large Entrance Hall with several marble staircases that wound upwards and downwards, and torch-lit corridors that went in all directions. The castle smelled of stone and of wood polish. Hagrid moved to the front of the group to address them.
"Well this is as far as I'm takin' yeh. Now yeh go up those stairs-" he pointed towards a staircase that went up one floor, "-and you'll meet Professor McGonagall, who'll take yeh to yeh Sortin'." He gave a hefty wave and disappeared down a corridor.
Immediately all of the first-years swivelled around to look at Brienne, who turned red.
She knew what they wanted her to do. Tentatively, Brienne stepped forward, and with the eleven-year-olds following her, they ascended one floor. Once there, a tall, thin, stern-looking woman waited for them. She was wearing emerald green robes, had her jet black hair in a tight bun and glasses poised on her pointed nose. She nodded at Brienne with a tight smile as they appeared from the staircase.
"Hello,” she greeted, her voice echoing around them. “I am Professor McGonagall, and I am the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Welcome to the school on behalf of the staff. I am about to take you into the Great Hall," the Professor gestured behind her, where an even more impressive door than before stood closed; they could hear a loud hum of conversation from the other students behind the door, "where you shall be placed into your houses. They are Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin."
All of these houses seemed to arouse some kind of reaction from the first-years. Some of their faces brightened up at the prospect of being placed in Gryffindor; however trepidation sparked on some of their faces when they heard the word 'Slytherin'. Brienne personally didn't know the difference, but she supposed she wouldn't mind being placed in Luna's house.
Then at least I know someone,
Brienne thought. McGonagall then went on to explain the Houses and the House Points system, which made the first-years look excited but was of little concern to Brienne.
Professor McGonagall looked at Brienne with the air of someone who was looking at an extra chore.
"You are Brienne Christie, I believe?"
"Yes,” her voice croaked from lack of use.
"Your wand, please."
Anxious, Brienne pulled out her rosewood wand and handed it to the Professor. She took out her own wand and put the two tips together. At contact, red and silver sparks emanated from both wands. McGonagall nodded, and handed the rosewood back to Brienne.
"Just a quick check, to see if everything is in order. It is not often that we accept foreign students. Now; come with me, please."
The Professor turned, and the huge door behind her opened as she began walking. Brienne let her fellow new students follow before walking in herself, placing herself in the back of the group.
They walked into one of the biggest rooms Brienne had ever seen, with golden walls, sparkling silver windows and four long tables filled with seated students. Several fireplaces crackled merrily. Woven crests hung overhead showed which table was for which house. Facing the tables was a raised platform where several teachers sat, including Hagrid, who was at the edge.
At their entrance, every eye in the room seemed to turn to them, and silence fell. Brienne turned bright red as she saw Luna sitting at one of the tables, waving at her and the other first years. She pursed her lips in a smile and nodded in Luna's direction, grateful for her support.
Sitting in front of the Teacher's Table was a three legged stool, whereupon an old, tatty, dirty hat sat. McGonagall strode and stood beside the stool and a large roll of parchment materialised out of thin air, and landed in her hands. Before McGonagall could say a word, a large rip opened in the hat and it began to speak:
"Welcome, new students are thee;
Just you watch while I count to three,
and proceed to tell you why I am here,
and why it is but once a year!
The Sorting Hat's speech lasted a few minutes, explaining to Brienne and the new students about the four houses and how different they were; as a result, Brienne could see why some of the students were worried about being placed in Slytherin. After the Hat's voice died away, the students and teachers alike applauded politely, and McGonagall righted her glasses and lifted her parchment.
A boy with tamed straw hair stepped forward, a big, excited grin plastered upon his face. He sat onto the stool and the Hat was dropped onto his head. Mere seconds later, the Hat shouted,
The middle right of the tables exploded in applause, as Samuel Andrews practically fell off the stool in order to be seated at his new House Table.
A tiny boy with curly brown hair sat on the stool.
A similar reaction occurred, as Lee Cook sat down. The Sorting went on for a while, with the first years being Sorted in alphabetical order. Brienne became slightly anxious when the Sorting went past C in the alphabet. She hoped she hadn't been forgotten, and reasoned that she would be left until the end.
A frightened looking girl with long dark hair sat on the chair, and the Hat immediately called her house, "Slytherin!"
On and on the first-years were placed, until only Brienne remained. At seeing her name on the register, McGonagall looked up and spoke to the student body, her voice suddenly magically magnified.
"Before this student is placed, I must remind you that this young lady is from Beauxbatons, and shall be joining the fifth-year class, as I am sure Professor Dumbledore informed you..."
McGonagall turned fleetingly to a grand old man with silver hair and beard, half-moon glasses and royal blue robes. He was sitting in the middle of the staff table and looked at Brienne with piercing blue eyes, nodding slowly.
"...and I remind you to treat her with respect and to help her with directions if need be. Now-"
Again, all eyes were upon Brienne, who was shrinking in her robes, she was so embarrassed. All that fuss over her...couldn't they have done this privately?
Slowly, Brienne stepped forward, aware of every eye on the room trained on her, and sat on the stool, a spasm of fear and dread hitting her for the first time. There was never anything like this at her old school. Then she felt the light weight of the Hat falling in front of her eyes and darkness hitting her. Taking a deep breath, in her head Brienne could hear the Hat speculating what house to place her in.
"Hmmm...oh there's smarts, yes...oh, but bitterness and fear....caring nature...but what house? What one?"
Not knowing herself what House she wanted to be placed in, Brienne's heart was encased in fear as she felt the Hat open its mouth.
Brienne turned towards her new House, which burst into applause at receiving the new girl. She hopped off the stool, replacing the Sorting Hat on it. The only free space at the table was next to a redheaded boy, younger than her, who was gulping down a large goblet of pumpkin juice.
After a few minutes, Professor Dumbledore stood in his regal blue robes and announced to the students that Dementors would be guarding the school and the grounds from Sirius Black, the criminal that had escaped from the prison Azkaban the same week that Brienne had arrived in England to live with her father.
Leaving his announcement to sink in, the Headmaster then smiled and said, "Tuck in."
And all the food suddenly materialised out of thin air! Platters of all kinds of food imaginable were spread out extravagantly over the four House Tables. The red-headed boy next to her practically dove in, piling his plate up with chicken legs, baked beans and chips, talking with his mouth full to the bushy haired girl sitting on his other side.
Brienne also tucked in, pulling a slice of steak and ale pie onto her plate, grabbing a silver goblet of juice and downing it in one. She hadn't eaten since that morning, when her father had given her a hearty breakfast.
“Something to fill you up until the train ride,” he had said. However, Brienne had passed on the train food, knowing she would get a wonderful welcome in the famous Hogwarts Feast that her father had gone on about when she arrived in England. Her father had been a Hufflepuff at Hogwarts in his youth, but Brienne was not brought up by him, favouring her French mother. The reason of her sudden move, well...
Too painful for Brienne to think about.
The students and staff ate for what seemed like a long time, all of the new kids being introduced to second years, or the friends of their older siblings. Brienne was mostly ignored except for the occasional question about Beauxbatons and if there were any female students that needed a pen pal (these mostly coming from sixth year boys), but she didn't mind, having only been in the school for an hour. The only other contact she had with others was from her neighbours at the table, indicating which foods were the tastiest. She was perfectly happy to be left alone and let everything wash over her.
Brienne and all of the other students stopped what they were doing as Professor McGonagall tapped a fork against her glass, calling for attention. The staff table had also stopped, not looking worried in the slightest. Brienne, confused, looked around at her fellow Gryffindors. Most of them were staring at the platters of food, grinning, only for them to again grab them and share them around.
Brienne looked at her plate, and found that the main courses, all the meals you could imagine, had disappeared, and replacing them were desserts of all kinds. A smile growing on her face, Brienne grabbed some crème brulee.
A while later, Dumbledore stood and told all of the students to go to bed.
"Now that we have been fed and watered, I think we all need a rest. Go and sleep and prepare for first lessons tomorrow. Goodnight!"
He had also said that prefects were to lead their houses to their common rooms. At Dumbledore's words, Brienne heard lots of scraping as all of the students stood and followed their respective prefects to the Entrance Hall. The Gryffindors went up some floors, and down a corridor where a large portrait of a fat lady wearing a red dress was decorating the walls. The prefect stepped forward, the crowd of Gryffindors bustling.
"Password?" asked the Fat Lady in the portrait.
The Fat Lady nodded imperiously, and the portrait swung open to reveal a large hole in the wall. The prefect led the way through the hole and opened a door on the other side, to the common room.
The room was extravagantly decorated in red and gold colours, a large banner of a golden lion glimmered over a roaring fire, two big and squashy looking armchairs sitting there, just crying out for company. At the back of the room, two staircases spiralled up, out of sight. The second, third, fourth and so on years went up the stairs, the boys on the left, the girls on the right, and some lingered in the common room, making themselves comfortable.
The first years and Brienne stood, trying to edge to the fire to warm themselves up. The prefect, a tall, red-haired boy stood in front.
"Welcome to the Gryffindor common room. You'll be spending a lot of your time up here, so make sure you make yourselves at home and get to know as many of your fellow housemates as possible. The dormitories are up the stairs, the boys to the left, the girls on the right. Your belongings have been brought up already."
The boy then climbed up the left staircase, some of the first years following. Brienne stood there alone, looking around at the room she was in, soaking it in. Most of the Gryffindors that had stayed in the common room avoided her gaze, so, after considering going out to look for Luna, who was unfortunately in a different house, she trudged upstairs to the girls’ dormitory, concluding that she could find her tomorrow.
The staircase ended with a large, wooden door with a rounded finish. Brienne turned the old iron handle and helped herself in. Inside was another room that had several floors going both up and down, all pieced together by another spiral staircase in the middle of the room.
In a circle were five four-poster beds. They looked incredibly comfortable, with large trunks at the foot of them containing the owners’ belongings. Each of the old, wooden trunks was carved with a single name.
Seeing that her name wasn't on any of them, she went up three floors, where she finally found her bed. It was cherry red, the curtains elegantly draped to just reveal the plumped-up pillows and scarlet spread. Brienne, tired, placed her wand on the small bedside table and took off her robes. She fell into bed, and was immediately asleep.