It's a common misconception that dementors can't talk. I blame the media, perpetuating this image of these demonic, scabby, silent fiends who creep up on unsuspecting, window-shopping witches and suck themselves a nice, cool soul margarita. Granted, the whole "demonic, scabby, soul-sucking" thing is right on the money, but the silent part? Not exactly.
See, I know a thing or two about dementors. And believe me when I say that they can talk. Sure, they'll clam up when they're doing their business. Goes with the whole Grim Reaper thing. But nine times out of ten, they do talk. A lot.
And they never. Shut. Up.
Unless Upstairs, Downstairsis on, in which case we were afforded a few hours of blessed silence-only to be lulled into a false sense of security and bam! Enter migraines.
Twelve years of them, in my case. Well, eleven, actually. It was hell upon arrival, sure, but the real torture started when Phyllis was hired.
Here's another common misconception involving dementors: they don't have genders. They're like earthworms, right? Giant, floating, deadly earthworms, but they still have the whole gender X bit going on. Right?
Wrong. Oh ho ho, so wrong. Because that would have been too easy. That would have been too damned easy, and Merlin knows no cosmic force is going to make life easy for me.
Which explains Phyllis. If I didn't know better, I'd say she was a Ministry ploy to ensure I went one hundred percent insane, a preventative measure to guarantee that I never escaped.
Great plan there, guys. How's that working out for you? I may have one foot in the loony bin, but see the other one? Yeah, it's doing a nice little fugitive jig.
Keep in mind that said jig is only happening because I haven't seen Phyllis in months. For the first time in eleven years, I've woken up without hearing her smacking her lips outside my cell. She did that whenever she applied lipstick. After she'd smeared it around her face a little bit, she'd smack her lips together and then do that popping thing that women do. You know what I'm talking about? Where they pop their mouths open and closed like a flounder gasping for air? Like for some reason, that's going to make the lipstick stay on?
Phyllis could have popped nonstop for millennia, and that wouldn't have done her a bit of good. She wasn't exactly the Cindy Crawford type. Substitute lovely, shapely, and vibrant for shriveled, saggy, and moribund, and you get Phyllis. I never found out exactly how old she was, but I reckoned she'd had a fair bit of plastic surgery to mask gravity's pull. Could've given Joan Rivers a run for her money. Her grey, paper-thin skin was lifted and stretched over whatever dementors have instead of a skull. She'd had some eyeliner and eyebrows tattooed on, which is even weirder than it sounds because dementors don't have eyebrows. Or eyes, for that matter. Just empty sockets. At least, that's what it looks like, although clearly they must have something back there, because otherwise, Phyllis wouldn't have had anything to attach her false eyelashes to. They poked out of her black sockets like a bunch of bizarre, quivering insect legs that batted me awake as if the smacking hadn't done the job already.
Butterfly kisses. Have you ever had butterfly kisses from a dementor? I have. I've had butterfly kisses from a dementor. Phyllis was a butterfly kiss advocate. In fact, that's how we met.
I'd only been in Azkaban for a year, but already, that was enough. I'd lost around two or three stone by then, not nearly as much as I would lose, but it was enough. I'd noticed my mind fraying ever so slightly around the edges—not nearly as much as it would fray, but it was enough. I needed out. I wasn't catatonic yet; I was fresh meat, and so my memories were more vivid than those of the other prisoners, and my stubbornness and fury hadn't yet waned. But it was starting to. It scared the hell out of me, but I was losing it. My only consolation, besides the fact that I was innocent, was the knowledge that things couldn't possibly have gotten any worse.
Until, as you've probably surmised, Phyllis came along.
It was morning—thought it was morning, although you never can tell in Azkaban—and I remember feeling something tickle my cheek, something scratchy and wiry. I thought it was a spider, because those cells are breeding grounds for all things creepy crawly, and I just brushed it away. A few seconds later, there it was again. And it made a chuff chuff chuffsound as it swept over my skin.
Chuff chuff chuff chuff.
Chuff chuff chuff.
Damned…Peter, you…effing son of a...I'm…there's…damned… bugs.
"You fancy him, do you?"
"Oh, be quietBrenda!"
"Yoooouuu faaaancy hiiiim!"
"Will you be quiet? Look, he's waking up!"
"Well, how can he not when you're rubbing your face up against his?"
"Shh! Beat it, Brenda, he's mine—well, hello, Sleeping Beauty!"
I'd screamed bloody murder. Anyone would have, sane or not. Screamed bloody murder and scurried up against the opposite wall, my hands in front of my face. Because seconds before, there'd been another face against mine. It was scabbed and rotting and stretched to the breaking point in a coquettish grin, and it let out a rattling giggle as I retched and proceeded to shake like a leaf.
So much for Gryffindor bravado.
"Get away," I remember groaning. "Just get…get away."
"Now is that any way to greet a lady?" Phyllis rattled, one skeletal hand on her hip as she pouted and sauntered closer. There was another dementor behind her, leaning up against the bars as she waggled her manicured fingers at me, one eye socket briefly closing in a wink.
I was pretty sure I'd gone off the deep end at that moment. I'd known it was coming, but I'd hoped to stick it out for a bit longer. A year was pretty disappointing. I'd expected better of myself. This was ridiculous.
"I'm Phyllis," rattled Phyllis. I noticed she had a southern American accent. It was so wrong, it was almost hilarious. Almost. "Just got transferred from Georgia. You know. Georgia. In the U-nited States."
Before I could move, she'd hunched over me again, taking my head in her hands and whispering, "Georgia. G-E-O-R-G-I-A. Like the peaches. You like peaches, honey?"
"Sod off." I wanted it to come out like an order, but it sounded more like a whimper.
"He's got spunk, this one," Brenda said from her post outside the cell with another wink. My stomach rolled again, but there wasn't anything left for it to empty.
Phyllis continued in a husky tone. "That true? You got spunk?"
I jerked my head out of her grasp, tucking my arms in and rolling off to the side, to the corner, to freedom—
Phyllis was too quick. In one deft movement, she'd pinned me down on my back, her tattered robes swirling around my ankles. She settled her weightless form atop my dwindling one like a cat lounging on a windowsill. Except cats typically don't gaze down at windowsills and giggle.
"My, my, my, you're just a little firecracker,aren't you? Brenda, he's a little firecracker!"
"Crack, crack, crack!" Brenda cooed. What I wouldn't have given for some crack right about then. "Soul's exquisite, too."
"I've noticed! Ooh, have I noticed." Phyllis had a tendency to overemphasize certain words. Her voice also dropped an octave when she did so, which wasn't the least bit alluring. She puffed out her lips and batted those God-awful eyelashes again. "Dahlin,' you and I are just going to have a lovelytime! Aren't we? Aren't we going to have a lovely time?"
"Get off!" I aimed my knee for her groin, but was met with thin air, forgetting the whole "dementors-don't-have-crotches" deal.
"Ooh hoo! Look at you go, you little firecracker!" she laughed wildly, taking my face in one dead hand and squeezing my cheeks. "Oh, I like you! Brenda, you're right, he is one finespecimen!"
"Amen to that!"
"What's your name, dahlin'?"
I actually drew a blank. I'd been doing that a lot. Chalk it up to going crazy. In any case, I didn't respond, praying as vehemently as I could that she would just take her peaches and leave, already.
"Aw, cat got your tongue? Gee, that's too bad. How about I loosen itfor you?"
My heart rammed frantically against my ribcage as she bent closer, closer, closer still, her mouth opening, and I was paralyzed. Memories, as vivid and as horrible as they day that they had occurred, rushed through my head like a whirlpool.
James dead, eyes glassy and unseeing as he lay sprawled across the rubble..
Red hair fanning out over the remnants of a shattered crib. Her eyes were wide, glistening with tears that would never be shed...
Peter..Peter shrieking nonsense for the whole street to hear, his mouth twitching in a grin as his wand slashed suddenly and the world exploded…
My sixth birthday party and the worst wedgie known to mankind orchestrated by one Bellatrix Black...
Son of a goblin, that sucker hurt. I walked around bowlegged for days.
This is it.
This is it, you're finished. At least everything will be quiet from now on. At least these memories won't give you hell any longer. At least there will be peace, however empty. At least—
Phyllis kissed me.
No, not like that, surprisingly enough. Yet a third common misconception about dementors is that when they kiss you, you're a goner along with your soul, which is true in most cases. But what very few people know is that they have two kinds of kisses, the infamous one and the...not so infamous one. Which is considerably wetter than the first.
I was being Frenched by a dementor.
And she wasn't good at it, either. I have to give her props for trying, I suppose. I mean, how much action did a dementor get in the snogging department, anyway? She tried. But man, did she fail.
Dementors have garishly long tongues. So she poked her tongue out and just decided that wherever it landed was good enough for her, never mind the fact that it was worming its way up my nostril instead of my mouth. Not like I wanted it in there, either, but you get my drift.
I writhed like a maniac, pushing and pinching and hitting in an attempt to escape the tongue of death, but to no avail. It slithered around the rest of my face a bit, and she kept giggling all the while, finally hitting her target and biting my lip. Hard.
"Oopsie!" Giggle, giggle, giggle. Lord, make it stop! "I guess I'm a little firecracker myself today! Kaboom!"
"Eugh, Phyllis, knock it off!" Brenda said from the doorway. "Save some for the rest of us! Look, now you've got him all slimy, he's not going to want to snog anyone else when he's all slimy!"
I could have been the epitome of squeaky clean, and I still wouldn't have snogged a one of them for all the gold in Gringotts. I didn't say this out loud, though. Not like I could have. Phyllis' lips were sliding around my nose, which made arguing more than a bit difficult.
"Brenda, you ain't gettin' any—he is mine all mine-oof!"
She'd momentarily let down her guard, and I seized the golden opportunity, bringing my arm up and around to the side of her head, hoping against hope that my fist would collide with something solid, something other than foul-smelling thin air. And, what do you know? It did.
She let out a girlish yelp as my knuckles met whatever was under her hood, and she was knocked to the side, rolling out of the cell and through the bars like a dementor taquito. Brenda screamed and flapped her arms around, doing a mincing sort of potty dance in surprise. Or, at least she would have, had she had feet.
I panted heavily, wiping my sopping face with one tattered sleeve. Brenda's head whipped around to look at me, and her eye sockets widened in…fear? No, probably mild shock, but not fear. In any case, my little secret agent move had done the trick. Brenda floated hurriedly away to comfort her friend, who'd probably rolled all the way across the hall by then. I leaned my head against the grimy stone wall, the small flame of victory dancing tentatively in my heart. I'd won this round, but somehow, I knew she'd be back.
And wouldn't you know it? Not five days later, Phyllis returned for round two.
"I think we got off to a bad start."
I'd jumped nearly a foot into the air at the sound of the rattling drawl behind me. Mustering up all my courage, I stood and faced the she wolf, my head held high and my fists clenched at my sides.
"Get away!" I pleaded, resuming my place crouched against the wall. "Get away, just go! Shoo!"
"I ain't a mouse,honey, shooing ain't gonna do a blessed thing."
Peter, I'll kill you—!
"See, now that's what I talking about!" Phyllis said abruptly, snapping me out of my reverie and stamping a hypothetical foot. "How on earth is this relationship supposed to work if you won't listen to a darn thing I say? Always wrapped up with Peter, and Lord knows who he is-"
I let out a bark of laughter. It sounded utterly mad, which it probably was.
"Relationship?" I croaked. "There is no relationship! I don't want a relationship! Get out of here! Do you hear me? Get OUT!"
"Now, now, now!" she protested, sticking her red lower lip out. She moved closer and I flinched, but she only sat down on the bio-hazard I used as a bed and peered at me through those gunky eyelashes. "You're a gentleman, I can tell. Is that any way for a gentleman to treat a lady?"
"Lady my ass!"
"Heavens to Betsy, you firecracker, watch your tongue! A little courtesy won't hurt! A little hospitality, I say! Now, perhaps…perhaps I came off a bit too strong, hmm?"
"But you're just inexperienced, that's all! Why, you can't be more than…twenty-one? Twenty-two? You're just not used to vying for a lady's attentions!"
Oh, no she didn't.
"Let me tell you something, lady," I growled, "If there's one thing I don't lack, it's experience in the female department."
Phyllis giggled and put a bejeweled hand to her mouth. "Oh, I was just pulling your leg, sweet potato. I figured as much, the way you were kissin' me somethin' furious!"
She was clearly confusing ardor with nausea. I winced at the slobbery memory.
"But enough of this tomfoolery!" She peered down at me over her shoulder with a simpering smile. "We need to get acquainted properly, don't we? Get to know one another? I need a name for you. Besides Don Juan, I mean! Ooh ooh!"
It really was a good thing that I hadn't eaten anything that day, because it would have been useless. I tried desperately to control my dry heaving. Phyllis plowed on, unabashed.
"So spill, sugar. What do they call you? Tom, Dick, or Harry?"
The first name sparked a wave of white hot fury. Riddle.
I'd been called the second on numerous occasions, particularly at school. Wore it like a badge of pride, I did. It was usually followed by "Head."
The third…I didn't want to think about the third. I couldn't take it.
I didn't have anything to lose, to be honest. Besides my soul, that is. I'd lost everything else. Plus, I was going batshit, anyway, so I figured, hey, what the hell?
"Sirius," I answered.
"I beg your pardon?"
Here we go. I could hear the puns before they came. I always hated introductions. Hated them with a bloody passion.
"My name's Sirius."
"About what, honey?"
Ho ho. Good show. Never heard that one before.
"Seriously in love?"
Or that one. She was just the pinnacle of originality.
"Silent again, are you? I pegged you as the strong, silent type," Phyllis purred. "Lighten up, you little firecracker. Why so Sirius?"
You know, I'm pretty sure my parents knew I was going to be a bad egg by their standards even before I was born, and so they started the humiliation early. I say this because what kind, loving parent is going to give their kid a name that is such fair game for puns? I never stood a chance.
"Oh, stuff it, you old bag," I snapped. I was hoping this would cause her to dissolve into tears worthy of Scarlett O'Hara and float away, leaving me to wallow. Alas, I was not so fortunate.
"I love it when you talk dirty," Phyllis chuckled, scooting closer to where I sat on the floor with my back against the wall. There was nowhere to run. Should she decide to start Snog Fest the Sequel, I was trapped. "So it's Sirius, is it? You got a last name, sugarplum? Or are you just too Sirius to tell me?" More giggles at her own joke, which had been beaten to death years ago.
"Black." Aaand here we-
"It's just pitch Black in here, ain't it? Someone needs to put some nice little light fixtures in the ceiling. Wouldn't you agree?"
Wait for it.
"Or that red door. Do you see that red door, sugar? I see that red door, and I want to paint it Black!"
I felt a migraine coming on.
"You looked starved, baby!" Her skeletal shoulders wiggled. "Why not have some nice, juicy Blackberries?"
Silence. She took a deep breath, and-
I proceeded to tell her exactly where she could deposit those blackberries, but she remained oblivious. Instead, she floated off the bed and into my lap, wrapping her icy arm around my shoulders and delicately tracing one finger down the side of my face. I struggled furiously, but it in vain. She merely squinted, shook her head back and forth, and puckered her lips.
"Ooh, handsome, aren't I lucky that I transferred? Georgia's got nothin' on this! I've got a good feeling about this. You and I, dahlin,' we're gonna have a ball!"
And out came her tongue.
It was going to be a long twelve years.