The Joker and Her
The next morning, Brienne was sitting at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall for breakfast. She was wearing her black robes with the new red and gold badge on the chest pocket that had somehow been freshly ironed and folded in the middle of the night, waiting for her on top of her trunk when she awoke. Her wand was in her pocket, and beneath her robes she wore a crisp white blouse, black trousers and comfortable shoes (she rejoiced that kitten heels were not compulsory at Hogwarts, as they were at Beauxbatons for the girls). Her blonde hair was up in a bun.
The candles that hung magically in the air the previous night were now gone, for the enchanted ceiling to shine sunlight upon the Hall, where outside the sky was heavily overcast. There was an excitement in the air, as first years strode in with their new robes and crisp bags, and older students got reacquainted with friends.
Luna had not yet arrived to breakfast. Brienne had been slightly disappointed to find that she had not been sorted into her House, but determined that the girl probably had friends of her own. As for interactions with fellow Gryffindors, Brienne had been shocked to find that the perception of her old school at Hogwarts was one of lavish glamour, when really, every day was a test of magical skill and grace.
Minutes later, Professor McGonagall went walking up and down the Gryffindor table handing out timetables. When she got to Brienne, she gave her a roll of parchment, tied with a ribbon. She nodded at Brienne, her eyes showing some warmth, and walked away.
Brienne pursed her lips in a smile, and lazily watched as the redheaded boy she sat next to at dinner the night before walked past to sit with a group of third years a small way down the table. Brienne looked back to her timetable, her appetite slowly disappearing. Freezing, her gaze shot back up at one of the boys sitting with the redhead.
Brienne thought, Harry Potter?
The boy shared a joke with the redheaded boy and they both laughed, and he brushed the hair on his forehead away from his eyes to reveal a small lightening shaped scar. There's the scar,
she went on thinking, so it
She marvelled for a moment, having forgotten that she would be now sharing a house with the Boy Who Lived.
The bell then rang, signalling morning lessons were to start in the next ten minutes, and Brienne jumped up, swinging her bag over her shoulder and shoving her timetable up to her eye level.
"Defence against the Dark Arts," Brienne read out loud, before adding to herself, "and I haven't got a clue where to go.”
She looked up and down at her fellow Gryffindors for anyone who could be fifth year. Potter and his friends had already gone, although she knew he was at least a year younger than she was. Deciding that she would find her own way there, Brienne folded up her timetable and slipped it into the pocket with her wand. She made her way from the Great Hall, nervously wondering where to go.
She entered the Entrance Hall where there was a corridor leading off towards a massive sequence of staircases; many students had decided to leave for lessons as early as the bell, and Brienne hung back until they had filtered away. It took her several moments to realise that these stairways moved of their own accord.
Grumbling to herself, Brienne was just about to attempt jumping on a moving staircase before a voice made her jump and almost slide right off the corridor. She pulled herself back up just as the person spoke again.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you."
Brienne frowned and turned. The boy who had spoken to her was tall (well, taller than Brienne, which wasn’t difficult), redheaded and good looking. He had a smirk on his face and held his hand out, seemingly unaware that he had frightened the living daylights out of her. Brienne shook his hand silently, getting ready to rattle off the riff on Beauxbatons and how the girls there aren't perfect and how no, they most certainly didn’t need pen pals, something that seemed to be needed whenever a boy had approached her in the last twelve hours.
The boy raised his eyebrow at her and then looked over his shoulder at another boy, completely identical to him, who was bent over with laughter halfway down the corridor. They were both Gryffindors, as was apparent by the crests on their robes. Brienne looked between the two boys as the laughing one joined them. They didn't seem to have any physical dissimilarities; they even stood and walked in exactly the same way. The boy who had snuck up on her grinned.
"Hi." Brienne was at a loss to what they were now up to.
"Are you lost?" the other boy asked.
"Yes, I am actually. I’m looking for the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom." Brienne frowned at them. "Are you fifth year?"
"We are," they both said at the same time. Brienne almost jumped back in surprise. The second boy held his own hand out.
"I'm George, and this is--"
"--Fred," they both said.
Brienne took George's hand and shook it, not realising he had held her hand for far too long until he let go. Fred seemed to notice it as well, looking at his brother with an amused look on his face.
The warning bell sounded, and Fred and George, as if the bell sparked their motion, leapt forward and pushed Brienne down the corridor. Brienne tried to run forward and away from these boys, but they caught up to her and, with each taking one of her arms, ran forward themselves and pulled her along.
"Ooh, look, she's following us, George," Fred spoke to his brother. "I think she may have a crush on me!"
"Oh no, it's me. Check out this pulling power!"
Brienne scowled as they reached a classroom door. Fred and George finally let go of her as Brienne marched in, righting her now tousled robes and hair.
The classroom was large, with the desk near the winding staircase which came from the door. The vast majority of the room was taken by benches at which three people each sat. Almost all of the students had arrived, and a single bench was vacant near the front of the class.
"Perfect!" the twins said at the same time. They simultaneously grabbed Brienne again and guided her toward the vacant bench, where they sat her down in the middle. They sat down on either side of her, each putting an arm around her shoulders. Brienne cringed.
Shrugging their arms off, Brienne said, "Look, please. Stop."
"What are we doing?" George asked, looking over at his brother. "What do you reckon, Fred?"
"She's in love with us, obviously."
Brienne sighed. Fred and George sighed. She glared at them, and they both smiled. Brienne sat back, clearly at a loss to what these boys were up to.
There was a clunk as the door closed. Brienne and the twins looked up to see a young man entering the room, a few books under his arm. He had a few faded scars on his worn face and had short flecks of grey in his brown hair. His sharp but wise hazel eyes made him seem older. It only took Brienne a moment to realise that he was the man who checked up on her and Luna on the train after the Dementor encounter.
The man, dressed in a long black cloak, set his things on the teachers’ desk. He then took off the cloak to reveal a tatty shirt and trousers. He went to the front of the desk and leant on it, his arms folded, his gaze sweeping across the class.
At his entrance, the pupils- who before were chattering- fell silent.
"Good morning," the teacher said. "My name is Professor Lupin, and I shall be teaching your class this year for Defence Against the Dark Arts."
Lupin stood up straight and made his way to the back of the class, where he lifted his wand and conjured a large figure, something that looked like a mannequin made of tin, out of thin air. Lupin made his way back to the front of the class, where he waved his wand again and his desk flew to the side of the room.
"Wands out, please."
Brienne quickly took out her wand and threw down her cloak. She then went over to Lupin, where the other students were standing, looking energized. The twins followed, appearing geared up for some practical work; apparently, this did not happen often. With a last wave of his wand, Lupin made the rest of the desks fly to the walls so that there was more space.
"Stand in a line, please," Lupin said simply, turning to the dummy as the students scrambled to get in a line. "Today, we shall be learning the ways of combat. I believe that you have all taken part in duels, so this will be good practise for you."
Brienne, who was third in the line, stood on her tip-toes so she could look over the shoulder of Fred, who was standing in front of her.
Lupin, at the front of the line, said, "The first spell we shall be learning is the repel charm. It blocks spells that are being shot at you and can also send your opponent back." He stepped forward, flicking his wand at the dummy, "Stupefy!"
A jet of red light shot out from the end of Lupin's wand. It hit the target on the dummy's stomach, and it was blasted back, crumpled against the wall.
"Now you!" yelled Lupin, who ran forward and levitated the dummy from the floor. The next student in the line, a Ravenclaw girl, panicked and said the wrong spell, which resulted in the dummy being transformed into a canary. The girl, embarrassed, went to the back of the line. The students laughed as Lupin got into a pickle trying to catch the canary, and then turned it back to normal.
Fred, who was next, stepped forward. "Stupefy
The spell was almost successful, but it missed its mark and smashed the mirror on the wall behind the dummy. George creased up in laughter. Brienne laughed also, and Fred gave his brother a high five, as if he had done the spell as perfectly as their teacher, and joined the Ravenclaw girl at the end of the line.
Brienne was next. She took a deep breath and stepped forward, and with a flick of her wand, cast the spell, "Stupefy
!" she yelled, as a somewhat dim red light shot out from her wand and hit the dummy's left arm, which bent back slightly.
"Well done!" said Lupin, who nodded at Brienne. "Work on your focus, though." She nodded back and smiled at herself as she joined Fred at the back of the line. George was similar to Fred; he missed the mark, but he did cast such a powerful spell that the dummy's head was blasted off. It was quite different from any lesson that Brienne had ever had; generally, she was used to practising spells in her spare time rather than actually performing them in lessons.
In the final moments of the class, the pupils filing out of the door, Brienne was just about to follow the twins when she heard the Professor calling her back.
The twins ‘oohed’ at her, but Brienne ignored them and returned to Lupin's desk, standing before him with her head slightly down.
He looked up from his books, his eyebrows slightly raised.
"Don't look so worried, Brienne. You're not in trouble. Quite the opposite, in fact.” He stood and went to lean on the front of his desk, his arms folded.
"I don't suppose you remember me, but..." Lupin looked lost for words for a moment, then rubbed his brow and started again, "I don't suppose you remember me, but I was a great friend of your father's. I last saw you when you were very little, only a baby, I think. I just called you back to welcome you to the school."
Brienne snapped her gaze back up at him and stared into his face, trying to remember him being in her life prior to seeing him on the train, to no success. Lupin blinked at her, and the corners of his lips lifted slightly.
"You look very much like your mother, Brienne."
Brienne's breath hitched, and she hung her head, trying not to let the remark upset her.
"Oh! I'm so sorry. I'm extremely sorry for your loss. I used to be friends with her as well --"
"Do you know how she died?" Brienne whispered urgently, tears in her eyes.
Lupin looked at her, confused for a moment before replying, "I'm afraid not, my dear. I'm very sorry."
"It's all right." Brienne tried to get herself together and forced her tears back, gave a small, strained, disappointed smile. "I should go."
"Oh! Well, I was going to talk to you about the Dementor attack on the Express--"
"I have to go. I'll come back later. Bye, Professor." Brienne replied as the warning bell for the next lesson sounded. She hurried up the steps, furiously wiping her tears without letting the teacher see.
She brightened up her face (even though it wasn't genuine) at the twins, who had unexpectedly waited for her outside the door. Fred, who was halfway down the corridor, was gesturing for her and George to follow.
As they did so, George reached out and flicked a stray tear from the corner of Brienne's eye.
"Are you all right?"
"Fine!" Brienne said breezily. George did not look convinced.
He stopped walking. "What did Lupin want?" he asked seriously. Fred had stopped walking also.
"Nothing," Brienne replied. She caught up with Fred and walked with him to Herbology. George joined them without saying a word.
As the day passed, Brienne spent most of the time with the twins, trying to get her mind off the conversation with Professor Lupin.