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Chapter 8 : Hallowe'en
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The Joker and Her
The rest of the day went smoothly for Brienne, until the evening. The Potions fiasco was soon forgotten -- for the most part, at least. After lunch, Brienne had gone to Transfiguration, where she'd spent the lesson trying to Vanish snails. The rest of the day was normal, as normal as Brienne's life could be at the moment.
As George reminded Brienne, that day was All Hallows Eve; Hallowe'en. When Brienne had had a mother -- and the promise of many Hallowe'en themed desserts and snacks sent to her in Beauxbatons -- this had been one of Brienne's favourite times of year. She had looked forward to these treats, whether to eat in the middle of the night or whilst watching the traditional staff-performed light show out in the grounds.
She wasn't sure how she would be able to cope with the knowledge that no special packages would be arriving in the post, no midnight snacks, and no light shows. Not this year, and not ever again. A consequence that led straight to the thing that Brienne had been trying to avoid -- thinking about her mother.
Still, Brienne was curious as to how the traditions at Hogwarts would differ from what she was used to. George had called Hallowe'en dinner "brilliant,” -- she deeply hoped so.
- - -
"It's time for dinner, are you coming?"
Angelina and Brienne were sitting in the Common Room, finishing up the load of Herbology homework they had received the day before. Brienne had only just realised that the sun was sinking over the tops of the trees of the Forbidden Forest. She had been staring pensively at through the window for the last two hours or so, after falling into deep thought.
Angelina -- her raven hair up in a ponytail that day -- had stood and was leaning over the table. The Common Room was almost empty; nearly everyone had left for the banquet. Brienne stood to join Angelina, who was wearing a wide cloak of deep black. It made her look graceful and very beautiful. Brienne hadn’t gone to nearly so much effort, the best she could do was leave her hair loose, which didn't make her look either graceful or beautiful.
Leaving their bags in the dormitory, they made their way down to the Great Hall. The girls could hear the chatter from four floors above. Angelina was leading -- she seemed so drawn to the Hall it almost worried Brienne. It looked as if this feast was better than people had described.
Entering the Hall, the girls could smell cooking pumpkins, wood polish, and smoke. The bustling students issued an excited hum of conversation, full of anticipation. They could clearly see Fred and George, who were both wearing big black cloaks like Angelina was, although they also wore fake vampiresque fangs and white paint slathered on their faces.
The breath caught in Brienne's throat as she took in the difference in the Hall from that morning. Hundreds of pumpkins were hanging in the air, magically suspended. Candles were in the centre of them, which scented the entire Hall with a pungent, fruity smell; the lights of the Hall had dimmed so the faces carved in the pumpkins were shadowed on the walls.
They hurriedly took their seats opposite Fred and George who were rubbing their hands together in their impatience for the dinner. It was only then that Brienne noticed how hungry she was.
"All right, girls? Having fun?" Fred greeted, flashing a smile to the unsuspecting Angelina, who then giggled and leant on Brienne as if for support.
George rolled his eyes at Brienne, who smiled back, before he returned to his conversation with Lee.
Fred had raised his eyebrows. "Hungry, girls?"
Brienne nodded and rubbed her stomach, which rumbled as if in agreement. Angelina simply grinned. A few minutes later, Professor Dumbledore stood and wished the students a 'Happy Hallowe'en,' before waving his arms majestically, welcoming the feast.
A couple of hours later, the five of them began to venture back to the Common Room; their stomachs were so full they all had to waddle as to not upset themselves.
"Well, what did you think of that, Bree?" Angelina asked, rubbing her stomach soothingly.
"That was..." Brienne attempted a reply, but couldn't manage it. She was so gorged that a coherent response was simply impossible. George mumbled in agreement.
Angelina laughed, "Yes, it was nice, wasn't it?" She trailed off, hanging on Fred's arm absentmindedly.
Brienne smiled at the sight of them. She had indeed enjoyed their dinner; the roast lamb with mint sauce and potatoes, along with the rich gravy, with the roasted pumpkin and clotted cream for pudding. Her stomach was appeased, and Brienne felt like she would sleep well that night, in her soft, warm bed.
They were all pulled out of their daydreams when they heard Lee speak. "What's going on?"
They had reached the seventh floor, where at least a hundred students were clogging up the corridor that lead to the Common Room. Angelina, who was the tallest, craned her neck over the heads of the confused pupils to see what was happening, before shrinking back onto her heels, nursing her bloated stomach. Brienne and George looked at each other and exchanged puzzled looks.
"The Fat Lady's closed. I don't think they can open the portrait."
"Why?" Lee asked.
"I don't know! I think--the Fat Lady's gone!" Angelina gasped.
"Let's go and get a better look."
George began to step through the crowd, his brother and Lee following. Angelina stayed with Brienne, who huffed in impatience. She was looking forward to being in her bed; now it seemed there would be a delay. There was an air of suppressed panic. The news was now quickly spreading about the absence of the Fat Lady, and the many Gryffindors- along with the few Ravenclaws that were passing- seemed concerned.
Suddenly, there was a hush amongst the students as the Headmaster, looking regal in sweeping purple robes, marched down the corridor towards the closed portrait in which the Fat Lady was absent. On closer inspection, Brienne realised why there was a sudden solemn atmosphere- the portrait was hanging apart, slashed to pieces by an unknown vandal.
The students parted for the Professor to approach, and then closed together again after he had passed. Angelina and Brienne were still at the back, and didn't know where the Twins were.
"What do you think’s happening?" Angelina mused as Brienne attempted to peer over shoulders and heads.
"I don't know -- let's listen." Brienne responded.
There was such a hush over the corridor -- students and portraits holding their tongues in anticipation -- that they could hear the exchange between Professor Dumbledore and the passing Peeves, and before long the former had ordered the confused and worried students to return to the Great Hall.
- - -
Having been at the back of the crowd, Angelina and Brienne were pushed forward with the haste of the students, terrified and whispering to each other, anxious to get back to the Great Hall.
When they arrived there, Brienne and Angelina picked up two squishy sleeping bags and got settled in the Great Hall. The floating pumpkins were gone, as was the delicious smell that came with them. Many students were still pouring in from the Entrance Hall and the two girls were sitting, waiting for the Twins to appear, the confused and panicked change of atmosphere extremely jarring. Brienne had taken off her shoes and robes, stripped down to a vest and shorts, and stuffed herself into her own purple sleeping bag before anyone could get an unwelcome glimpse. Angelina was brushing her hair out with her fingers, and stood, her lilac bag still rolled up at her feet.
"Where do you think the boys are?" she asked, concern in her eyes and in her voice. Brienne rolled her eyes.
"Don't worry, Angie, they're fine." She paused to yawn deeply. "It's not like they were attacked by that killer, Sirius, whatever his name is."
"Him. Come on, do you really think Peeves was being truthful?"
Angelina looked over again, blinking. "You don't think he's actually here?"
"Of course not." Brienne tried to keep the worry out of her own voice. She didn't think she could bear anything else happening to people she cared about.
It was then that the Twins finally became visible to the girls, two indigo bags rolled-up under their arms. They spotted each other, and the girls waved them over.
"Cor, that bloody Peeves!" Fred exclaimed, rolling out his bag before getting in it. "I hate sleeping on the floor."
"Because you've done that so many times," George replied, yawning and setting himself up quietly.
"Cold, Brienne?" he added, glancing at her apparent lack of cover-up.
"No, I'm toasty warm, thank you," Brienne muttered quietly.
Angelina, relieved that the boys were safe, got into her bag as prefects weaved through the students on the floor towards the several small groups who were still chattering and informed them that the lights would be soon turning off.
"G'night," she said to the three others.
"Night," Fred mumbled.
"Nighty night," George said, yawning again.
"Goodnight," Brienne replied, hitching her bag up to her shoulders and staring up at the enchanted ceiling, which was a radiant navy blue and twinkled with silver stars.
- - -
Brienne stood before the windows in the Divination Tower, her arm holding up the thick curtains. She looked down at the grounds, the cold wind taking the leaves with them, skittering along the overgrown grass.
She sighed, a great heaving sigh, before turning back towards that table.
The four cards were still laying there. Hermit, Empress, Lovers, Justice.
Tears swelled and spilt, and she threw the table over, the cards shimmering as they fell from sight.
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