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Stella Peabody

He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none

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Stella Peabody

Stella had felt unsettled and uncomfortable in her own skin during the entire summer at home, but she was more or less used to this.  Her hormone-addled brain made her temper flare at the smallest provocation, and she had quarreled with her family more often than usual.  Her older sister's wedding added an extra strain, and Stella had been accused of being selfish for such minor slights as requesting that her bridesmaid bouquet not contain baby's breath, to which she was allergic.  She also found herself more resentful about doing her chores, and sulked more in her room, which made even Figgy and Twinkle cross with her.   To cap it all, the fourteen year old's body was changing in strange and uncomfortable ways, and it felt like none of her clothes fit anymore.  Her freckled face had also sprouted little red spots of acne which made her face a constellation of ugliness, in her sister's words. 


But Stella was not used to feeling out of place at Hogwarts as well.   It was lovely to see her friends again, but she felt somehow disassociated from her own life.  It occurred to the Slytherin that her time at Hogwarts was more than halfway over, and it hadn't felt like she had accomplished much, nor that there was much to look forward to.  Many of her yearmates seemed to be pairing off into couples, or becoming closer in a way that frightened the reserved Stella.  She still didn't know which NEWTs she wanted to take, and it felt like no one wanted to be around her.  In a fog of teenaged angst, Stella was convinced it was because of her horribly deformed, newly ill-proportioned body.  She was also most likely an awful person, she was coming to realize.  After her heart to heart with @Shiloh Paige after the boggart lesson of DADA last year, Stella had realized that even Shiloh, bully and rule-breaker extraordinaire, was a better person than her.   She didn't even have the constancy of her one true rivalry anymore. 

 

Stella had never felt so alone in a castle teeming with friends and acquaintances and professors.  She didn't have anyone to talk to, as it felt that everyone else was growing up seamlessly, like they all had access to some handbook  about coming of age gracefully which she had never been told about.  Even journaling wasn't a good enough outlet for her emotions anymore.  Instead, Stella began scribbling letters to no one, leaving them scattered around the castle and grounds in a desperate cry for attention or interaction or something unnameable that she yearned for.  She was always careful to hide them, but she also didn't rip them up or burn them.  Some part of her must have hoped that they would be found. 

 

One hiding place of which she was particularly proud was the seam between the boot and greave of a suit of armor in the armor gallery.  It was well below the sight line of even the smallest first year, and Stella was so proud of her cleverness that she cheekily left a small corner of the parchment exposed,  the little yellow corner barely visible against the gleam of the armor.


 

Quote

 

Do you ever feel like a horrible person?  I feel like an impostor, and one day everyone is going to realize that I've been a bad apple all along.  Sometimes I think I should just act really, really rotten so everyone will see me for what I really am on the inside.  I don't even know what I'd do, it's just a weird urge I get sometimes.  I try so hard to be a good person, but it feels like I was just destined to be awful and selfish and unlovable.   Even my own family doesn't really like me.  Don't feel too bad for me, the feeling is mutual.  


What do you think?  Should I even bother trying to be good?  Sometimes it just feels so pointless.  I'm probably not brave enough to be really bad, anyway.  I'll probably just keep on being nothing. 

 

 

Edited by Stella Peabody

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Emmett Blaze

Fourth year had become the year of Emmett's angst. It was as if all the horrible, thoughtless acts he'd done in apathy had caught up to him in a single strike, a particularly vicious shock of lightening, and he was wrought with guilt in the ashen aftermath. Sure, it wasn't as if he hadn't felt guilty before, when he'd went around calling people mudbloods despite being a muggle-born himself, when he'd stomped on Hazel's flower, when he'd lied incessantly and insulted people only to stir a reactionbut the guilt had been muted then, and now, it was vibrant.

 

There were some exceptions, of coursehe'd never feel bad about the way he treated Behati, not after what she'd done to him and how she'd mocked him about it later—in general, however, he knew how needlessly cruel he'd been to people who were mostly innocent.

 

Sometimes, Emmett spent time in the armor gallery, introspecting. It'd been a habit since his first year, which was partially because he thought the place was cool, and he thought the particularly masculine suits of armor resembled him. After his diary had been stolen two years ago, he no longer felt safe writing his feelings down on paper, and he found other outlets to "escape" from his angst, such as reading in secret corners of the library or pacing the armor gallery in thought, diving into conversations with the suits of armor that (randomly, magically) jolted to life.

 

It was cathartic.

 

That day in September, as he strode through the gallery like usual, he spotted something he hadn't seen before—a glint of yellow. For a moment, excitement coursed through him—perhaps it was gold?—but disappointment sparked when he realized it was actually just a letter. Still, the Ravenclaw was often more curious than he ought to be, and in a whim, he grabbed it, opened, and read.

 

Do you ever feel like a horrible person?

 

Sometimes, I think I should just act really, really rotten so everyone will see me for who I am on the inside. 

 

He blinked slowly, absorbing the words. It wasn't every line that registered with him—Emmett had never cared about being a Good person (because what was a good person, really?)—but some did, profoundly, and it was impossible to resist the urge to write a response when he'd gone so long without writing. 

 

And so, he didn't think. He cast a quick glance around the area to ensure no one was around, then bent down, peeled out a piece of parchment from his satchel, and jot down his reply (kneeling, resting parchment on his knee). The sound of quill-scratch and the scent of ink whirled through the air. 

 

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Dear Anonymous, 

 

Yes, I do. However, let it be noted, I don't just feel like I'm a horrible person—I am a horrible person. I've done some awful things. Trust me, in comparison, whatever you've done is benign. (What is it you've done, though?)

 

It's not wrong to be selfish. Everyone is selfish. The worst people are the ones who try to pretend they're not. By recognizing it, you've got the first step down.

 

Also, families are messed up. My father has never been happy with me. My mum left when I was young, and hasn't bothered to contact me since. You can't let that break you.

 

You could always try being bad, and see if it makes you feel better. What level of bad are you talking?

 

Sincerely,

A Worse Person Than You

 

 

It was as if he were writing to a diary. He knew it wasn't a real diary, but somehow, the anonymity of it made him feel free to write openly, to wind words together that he'd never speak in real life. Frankly, Emmett had no idea if anyone would read it. Whoever tucked the parchment there could've merely done so by accident - it could've slipped out of a binder - and he or she may have no intention of it being read, never mind responded to. The chances were so slim that this would amount to anything that Emmett felt perfectly content tucking the person's yellow parchment inside his satchel and replacing it with his own response, on white paper.

 

Almost immediately after, he slipped out of the gallery.

Edited by Emmett Blaze

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Stella Peabody

Stella wrote many of these letters to no one during those first few weeks of her fourth year.   Although she was always careful to hide them, she thought of them as messages in bottles, capturing her raw emotions for a moment in time before being carried away on the tides of life at Hogwarts with the other adolescent detritus, the sweet wrappers and discarded homework and old quill feathers trodden underfoot in the halls.  It was the writing itself that was an outlet for the Slytherin, and the letters became ephemeral to her once their purpose was served.  She certainly never expected to see any of them again, so she did not look for them even when she knew a hiding place was nearby.  In fact, being reminded of them embarrassed her, and she often avoided thinking about her self-indulgent little habit.  It seemed silly, the sort of thing that a foolish girl would do in a romance novel.  

 

So her freckled face flushed scarlet when she was walking through the armor gallery on her way back from class and caught sight of one of her orphaned works.  The corner of the page was sticking quite obtrusively out of a chink in the armor, much more obviously than she had remembered leaving it.   Merlin, had she really fancied herself clever, leaving something so personal out in the open like that?  Stella stooped low to snatch the letter quickly from its hiding place and crumpled it into a ball in her robes. 

 

When she was safely back in the Slytherin fourth year girls' dormitory, she retrieved it from her robes and made to throw it into the fire.  But the handwriting on the balled up bit of parchment was not her own.  In fact, it wasn't parchment at all, but a square of white paper. 

 

"What the...?" she quickly drew the curtains of her four poster bed closed so she could read in absolute privacy.   At first, she was overcome by embarrassment and nearly threw the letter into the fire again.  Not only had someone found her note, but they must have taken it!  Someone now had evidence of her vulnerabilities, her secrets, and not to mention her embarrassing habit of leaving melodramatic notes everywhere.  The reply had a somewhat supercilious tone, and some passages seemed to be mocking her.  Yet she couldn't quite bring herself to burn it.  Parts of the letter spoke to her so deeply that she could have written them herself.  And someone had gone to the effort to write back to her.  She had called out to the void, and the void had answered.  It turned out she and the void were kindred spirits. 

 

Her quill struck through countless aborted words and ill-chosen turns of phrase as she drafted her reply.  She was convinced that someone might be able to identify her based on her diction, which was ridiculous considering how many people there were at Hogwarts, and how few knew her well.  Finally, she had a draft that satisfied her.  This time, she tried a little harder to disguise her handwriting. 

 

Quote

Dear Anonymous, 

 

Well, you're a grumpy bugger.  But then again, so am I.  I'm sorry about your mum.  My parents are still around, but they mostly ignore me.  When they're not ignoring me, they like to criticize me.  The worst part is that I don't want to be anything like them, but I know that I am.  They've raised me to be manipulative and critical of everything.  I try to be nice on the outside, and to not to let all the nasty things I'm thinking in my head show, but then I just feel like a liar and a fraud.   It feels like they've raised me so my first instincts are conniving and my first thoughts are negative, and trying to undo it is like swimming upstream.  Sometimes I just get tired of trying.  That's why I think about just being the person they've raised me to be sometimes.  I don't like that person, but at least I'd be honest.

 

I don't know exactly what I'd do if I were to go bad.   I mostly think I'd stop trying to be so nice and polite to everyone, even people who don't deserve it.  I have this one friend who's lied to me again and again, and I keep helping her even when she lies and steals.  Maybe I should give her a piece of my mind and tell her to go kick bricks.  But it's not just people like that, it's everyone.  I'd like to just stop viewing everyone through the lens of "what can I get from this person?" Maybe if I were just nasty all the time, no one would like me and I wouldn't be able to manipulate anyone.  Although then I'd just be being awful in a different way. 

 

You say you've done truly awful things, but I don't know if it's possible to do anything truly awful at Hogwarts without getting expelled.  What level of bad are we talking?

 

Sincerely,

Your Apprentice in Awfulness

 

It took Stella a few days to work up the courage to put her new letter back in the original hiding place.  She waited until dinner time, when the armory would be deserted.  She tucked the parchment carefully, leaving a small sliver exposed, but not as recklessly as her new pen pal.  She wondered if they'd write back, and how soon.  It felt strange, having a solitary exercise turn into correspondence with another person.  Like she had been talking to herself in the mirror only to discover that she didn't recognize the reflection who spoke back. 

Edited by Stella Peabody

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Emmett Blaze

The note may have been left recklessly, but Emmett could justify it by reminding himself how much safer the words were than the ones in his diary, which was now in the possession of Merlin-knows-who (Magda Trickett). Writing was what'd gotten Emmett through his darkest days, when he'd been abandoned in the forbidden forest, when his father was the most brutal, when memories of his mother pierced him, when his own self-hatred crashed over him like a tsunami. Finally having an opportunity to put words down in ink, again, was.. relieving.

 

Emmett checked the armor gallery a day later, and when his parchment remained, his slice of hope dulled. Hope was foolish. He knew he was writing to no one, and yet.. he couldn't stop the needling in the back of his brain that'd pulled him back. 

 

Out of pride, he waited another week before returning to the gallery, telling himself that he wasn't going to forgo his trips all together just because of a stupid letter. He wouldn't even look for it.

 

(Read: Looking for it was the first thing he did.)

 

He couldn't help it. His dark blue gaze, compelled by some mysterious force (unhinged curiosity), was drawn toward the place where he knew he’d tucked his parchment.

 

And it was gone.

 

Emmett's stomach dropped, twisted, seared. Tension split his limbs, rendering his movements toward the spot stiff and slow.

 

Finally, when he was directly in front of the piece of armor, he bent down, studying it, lips parting slightly at the discovery of a letter on different parchment. Much more well hidden than his own.

 

Heart pounding and hands shaking, he quickly unfolded it and read, over and over, not blinking until his eyes grew dry.

 

Even if the person hadn’t gone out of their way to disguise their handwriting, he wouldn’t have known who it was—he really only knew Isobel’s handwriting. He did squint for a moment, attempting to determine if the writing was of a male or female, but it was impossible to tell for sure. He had a gut feeling it was a girl, but he knew it was wrong to make assumptions solely on the basis of long and winded feelings strung out on paper—he, a boy, was writing her/him back, after all, even if he was a bit more succinct (in his mind).

 

He tucked the letter into his robe-pocket and promptly retreated. Emmett waited until night, curtains drawn, the only other light in the room a dim glow flickering from Simon’s canopy. Only then did he pull out parchment and a quill, his words illuminated by moonlight.

 

Quote

 

Dear Apprentice,

 

Merlin, you have a lot of feelings. I should be paid by the minute for reading them.

 

Kidding. Sort of. What I’m really trying to say is… I think it’s better not to be fake. It doesn’t matter how ‘horrible’ you are. I’m used to lying, to insulting people to push them away, and recently, I’ve stopped that. Or, I've been trying to. Recently, I’ve felt happier being myself. Now, I know you’re saying you’re the exact opposite of me, bad pretending to be good, but you can’t be that bad. Anyway, I don’t think truly awful people reflect on themselves that much. I know I never used to. Everyone has secrets, parts of them they close off to the world. You may find that you can make truer connections with people if you're honest.

 

I know, I’m basically Yoda.

 

I’m not going to go into specifics. I don’t want to make it obvious who I am, but I think the worst type of crimes aren’t necessarily deeds we’d be expelled for.

 

Sincerely,

 

A Vague, Grumpy Bugger

 

 

The next day, after re-reading and scratching out a word here and there, Emmett still didn’t feel completely satisfied (should he add a metaphor to show off his writing skills?), but he figured he wasn’t writing a novel. He was writing to someone who, odds were, he didn’t know. Hogwarts was a big school. The communication was strange and risky—whoever had written him may never read the letter anyway—so, he shrugged, tucked it into the armor (concealed more carefully now that the person was writing back), and once again, slipped out to safety.

Edited by Emmett Blaze

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