The Joker and Her
Brienne's first week at Hogwarts went well, considering. After arriving at most of her lessons and finding Fred and George Weasley beckoning her over to their table, she appeared to have no choice but to become friends with them, and had quickly gotten used to their hyperactive and mischievous banter. She then sat with them at nearly every meal, and her presence in the Common Room seemed to spur them into completing their homework along with her. They did not seem to mind this swift attachment; they took Brienne under their wing and it helped to ease her transition into the school. Brienne had also spent some fleeting time with Luna -- the girl that she was sitting with on the Hogwarts Express -- but had quickly realised that she was far too young, and far too distant, and far too...odd
, to cement a friendship with her.
It was her second Saturday morning at Hogwarts, and Brienne, Fred and George were sitting at the Gryffindor table when the letter arrived. Brienne didn't have an owl, but she spotted her father's dark grey owl, Serge, immediately as they flocked in to deliver their post. Serge landed gracefully on Fred's plate of scrambled eggs and sausages and lifted his leg to reveal a roll of parchment tied to it. George rolled around in his seat with laughter as Fred cried out, outraged at his ruined breakfast.
Brienne tried to hide the fact that she had frozen in anticipation as she detached the letter and ripped it open, recognising her fathers’ handwriting. Serge took off immediately, swooping off to the bright ceiling and out of sight.
"Wait!" Brienne called after it, her eyes averted from the letter, "What if I want to write back? Serge!"
But he was gone.
"Just use one of the school's owls," Fred replied, taking a piece of fried bread from George's plate. "Just take the letter up to the Owlery and away you go."
But Brienne had already opened her fathers' letter and was halfway through reading it. The Twins watched her apprehensively, waiting for her to finish reading. Seconds later, Brienne looked up from the letter -- her eyes averted from the Twins -- her lower lip twitching. She had dropped the fork in her hand that has some bacon hooked on it. She stood, and the Twins paused again.
"I'm going to the Owlery," she said, her voice hitching as though she was trying hard not to cry. She picked up her bag and hurried off, the letter that she had hastily stuffed in her bag fluttering out and landing on the floor.
Concerned, George shouted after her, "Brienne!" He looked at his brother, who had picked up the letter. George stood, picking up his own bag and in turn, rushed after her. Fred watched him go, and then began to read the letter from Brienne's father.
My dear Brienne,
I hope your first week at Hogwarts was fun, and that you've made lots of friends and progress in your lessons, which I am sure you are doing.
I understand that Remus spoke to you about your mother. Please do try to not get upset when people do this, they may know not nor understand how you are feeling right now. Remus sent me an apology via one of the school's owls. He also told me you are in Gryffindor, and I am so very, very proud of you. I never got into Gryffindor myself -- a Badger 'till the end -- but you were always made of stronger stuff.
Petal, I must also confess that just to check up on you is not my main reason for writing.
The Healers at St Mungo's have discovered how your mum died. She was attacked and killed. By whom, we do not know yet. The Minister has sent Aurors to Paris to converse with the European Board of Criminal Capture, to decide where to start searching.
Do reply back -- I am worried about how you are.
I love you very much, Brienne.
Fred looked up from the letter, his eyes wide and his breath lost. Why hasn't she told us her mum's just died?
He thought to himself. He folded up the letter carefully and put it in his pocket. And then, he followed his brother and Brienne up to the Owlery.
- - -
What do you mean she was attacked? Do you think it was the Killing Curse? It must have been, mustn’t it?
Why would anyone attack her? Why would they kill my mother?
Brienne stopped writing. She could only think of questions. After all, so many of them were flying through her head, and had been for three terrible months. She was sitting beside a handsome tawny owl that was waiting for her to finish writing her letter.
Brienne thought about her father's letter. The killing curse. It was, after all, the one and only possible solution. The Muggle police hadn't been able to come up with a reason for Zéphyrine Auvray-Christie's sudden and unexpected death, no more could the French Aurors who escorted Brienne to England. Brienne felt an odd kind of relief to finally know the cause of her death, but now the most important and obvious questions were "Who?" and "Why?"
Unable to write any more, Brienne set down her parchment and quill and buried her head in her thighs. She wrapped her arms around her knees, sobbing. Her mother had been -- oh. She couldn’t think the word. Why on Earth would anybody, anybody
, want to -- no, no, no...
Minutes later, she looked up, wiping her tears, only to see George entering the Owlery, looking for her.
He looked over, and then approached, pinching his nose at the smell of the owls.
"Are you alright?" he croaked.
Brienne waited, and then shook her head, "That letter was from my father. He said they've discovered how my mother died."
"Your mother died?" George replied immediately, "You didn't tell us that."
"I didn't want to talk about it," Brienne admitted sadly, sighing.
George cautiously approached her, sitting gently next to her.
"What did the letter say?" he asked. "If you don't mind me asking."
Brienne looked at him, pursing her lips.
"Someone...someone...I—I think...The K—killing curse..." She broke down, her hand over her mouth and her eyes wide. George hesitantly wrapped his arms around her, holding his breath so he didn't smell the owls. Brienne turned and cried on George's warm shoulder, wrapping her arms cautiously around him. George awkwardly patted her on the back and pulled away as Fred rushed in, the letter in hand. He stared at the two of them briefly before clearing his throat.
"Bree, why didn't you tell us?"
But his words were lost. As George pulled away from the hug, Brienne had stopped crying. She sniffed, staring at George curiously. She tilted her head slightly to the side, and stared into George's eyes. A funny feeling tugged in her chest.
"What...?" Brienne turned to Fred, and George narrowed his eyes, blushed ever so slightly and then looked away, standing to join his brother.
- - -
"My parents were divorced only months after I was born."
It was night, and Brienne, Fred and George were sitting in the Gryffindor Common Room. Most of the other students had gone to bed; the few left had begun to snooze with their heads on their school books whilst doing their homework. Brienne was sitting on the lush red carpet in front of the flickering fire, one of the only sources of light and warmth in the room. The Twins were both sitting in armchairs in front of her, George leaning on his knees and Fred leaning back, the chair seeming to swallow him.
After leaving the Owlery, Fred and George had treated Brienne delicately, as if she were a bomb that threatened to explode. They had the rest of the day to get through, and the Twins sat a numb Brienne down as soon as they had all finished dinner. They waited- doing their own homework and talking quietly- until everyone else was asleep before Brienne began to explain.
"They didn't love each other anymore; I think my dad only stayed because my mother was going to have me. She thought that I would bring them together again...but I think I only bought more stress. After they divorced, Mama took me to France to live with her. She had won me in the custody agreement, but I came to London every Christmas to see my father. I started at Beauxbatons and everybody was happy.
"But then I got the call. I was in the middle of an end-of-year test when an examiner called me out."
Brienne sniffed and gulped before carrying on. Fred and George glanced at each other, concern on their faces.
"They said she had been found at our home. Apparently she was all set to leave, travelling coat on and everything."
"Where was she going?" George asked.
Brienne looked at him and shrugged, before rasping, her voice desperately sad, “I don't know. Nobody does. Well...I suppose one person does. All I know is that she would never had gone anywhere without me or telling me unless she was in some serious trouble.” Brienne shot a look to the Twins as if in attempt to show them exactly how much trouble. “I had to move here with my dad as soon as the school year was out. He enrolled me here as soon as possible, and here I am."
Fred and George looked at each other again, their faces flickering in and out of sight from the firelight, and then at Brienne.
"I'm sorry," Fred said, "I'm really sorry that we had to bring this up, but I think we both needed to know about this," he glanced at George, who nodded back. "I mean, you could have never told us this, and completely held it all in, and then exploded at any moment!"
Brienne looked at Fred, trying to smile back and gulping again. "I understand. For all you know I could have just been depressed for no reason. You're right; I should have told you earlier. Am I forgiven?"
George smiled, "Course you are. You just need to trust us a bit more."
"I'm game for that." Her smile faltered slightly. "I'll be fine. Eventually." She got up, stretched and approached the stairs, "Goodnight."
"Nighty-night," the Twins said together, watching her go. Fred sighed, turning back again in his seat and getting up himself.
"I'm going to the sack, George," he said. "Are you coming?" He looked at his brother, only to see him still watching the space where Brienne had disappeared upstairs.
"Yeah," George replied, getting up and going up the left staircase whilst Fred frowned at him, for once not knowing what was running through the mind of his brother.
- - -
Monday morning was when Fred, George and Brienne all had Defence against the Dark Arts again. They had entered the classroom and unpacked their things when Lupin entered. He looked exactly as he did during their last lesson, windswept and tired. He nodded at Brienne as he began the lesson.
"Today I shall begin to teach you the Patronus Charm. Yes, I know this is a charm but, as Dementors are guarding the school this year until Sirius Black is found, the Headmaster has informed me to teach you this spell so you can defend yourselves if need be. This charm is the only way to truly ward off the Dementors.
"Now, all stand in a large space on your own. We need total silence for this."
The students did what they were told, all getting into their own space. Brienne lifted her wand and waited for further instruction.
"Now, close your eyes," Lupin said soothingly. "Think of your happiest memory. Let it fill you up, do not allow yourself to think of anything else, no sadness or anger. "
Brienne closed her eyes and tried to let her happiest memories float to the surface. Immediately several images passed through her mind: Being small in the family garden in Paris, her mother laughing and cuddling her, playing with a fake wand that lit up at her touch. All of these were very happy memories, but Brienne plumped for ones of her mother. She imagined her beautiful, smiling face grinning at her. She took a deep breath, keeping the image in her mind.
"Now, call the incantation: Expecto Patronum
," Brienne muttered, her mind still on her mother. Her eyes open now, she saw a faint flicker of silver light steam from her wand and disappear. She smiled, knowing then what it took to produce a fully-fledged Patronus.