Letters From The Dark
Aggravation and Insults
Disclaimer: I am not J.K. Rowling, nor do I own the Harry Potter Series.
Lily frowned as she looked at the parchment in front of her, pensively tapping it with her quill. Swallowing her preferred breakfast of eggs and bacon, she started to realize just how difficult being a pen-pal might be. The idea of sending a letter to someone she had never met before still made her feel awkward; she didn't want to be like one of those salesmen her mother always complained about.
At the start-of-term feast for her sixth year, Headmaster Dumbledore informed the students of a new idea that he had come up with for inter-school cooperation. As he explained, even though Hogwarts was the most prestigious of Britain's schools, there were others for less gifted magical students--or as James put it, the rejects. From what Lily had heard of those schools, they were hotbeds of Death Eater activity, so she suspected the Headmaster might be attempting to counteract it through his new program.
All of the students sixth year and up had been assigned a pen-pal from another school, to whom they were required to send at least ten letters over the course of the school year. The idea was to forge connections and friendships with those different from themselves, albeit anonymously. According to Dumbledore, the process was confidential on account of parental concern, all of the students using assumed names. However, meeting in person was to be encouraged if they found a connection worth exploring.
To no-one's real surprise, Sirius and James had derided it as a waste of their time, and they planned to send ten short letters the same day and forget about it. From what she had heard, most of the students of their year felt much the same way, planning to do the bare minimum to fulfil the requirements. However, Lily was a prefect, and thus felt she needed to set a good example for the other students; she had to take this seriously.
However, Lily was intimidated by the person that she had been assigned; he possessed a rather impressive set of accomplishments based on the fact sheet she had been given, although information like location and the like wasn't available to keep his name private.
Apparently, he had made almost straight O's on his O.W.L.s; while Lily herself had done very well indeed, her new pen-pal had gotten marks that would have assured him passage into the N.E.W.T. level in every single course he had taken, which was no mean feat. However, he seemed very rude indeed. In the essay attached to his fact sheet, he had simply stated in spiky handwriting:
Whoever is reading this, allow me to save ourselves some time by making this clear: I believe that in all likelihood, you are an idiot, and I would be much better served with talking to a rock instead of writing to a dunderhead like yourself. All the same, this is required coursework, so I have little choice in the matter.
Write what you will, and I will try to answer with a minimum of fuss, so that we might be done with this onerous task as quickly as we can. My selected pen-name is Perseus Evans, so if you address it as such, I shall receive it. I do not need to know the sordid details of your likely-insignificant life, nor do I care. We are not friends, nor am I interested in becoming anything more than your temporary pen-pal.
Contact me soon, so that we might get this over with as fast as possible.
Lily chewed her lip as she gazed down at the parchment; she wanted to make the best impression she could on the boy, and if she wasn't careful...Lily suspected it wouldn't go well. She didn't want to have to write ten letters to someone who hated her after all. That would be very taxing indeed.
She didn't want to come across as too anxious, nor too eager to please. On the other hand, she didn't want to come across as uncaring, even if the boy surely seemed not to care about the assignment...
Sighing, Lily started to write:
Although you might consider this a waste, I would hope that we might be able to become friends through this program. In spite of what you may believe, I am far from being a 'dunderhead'; as you should be aware, I have successfully passed six out of my seven courses and have been cleared to continue to the N.E.W.T. level in them.
Furthermore, even if you think this is just a waste of time, wouldn't this 'onerous task' be easier to complete and less stressful if we at least attempted to enjoy it, Perseus? Besides, you might be pleasantly surprised; perhaps we could become friends in the end after all. Who knows?
Regardless, as you shoul know, my pen-name is Medusa. I enjoy Defence Against the Dark Arts and Charms, and I rather adore Care of Magical Creatures, not that I'd tell anyone. My forte though is Potions, and my professor says that I am probably the best student he has had the pleasure to teach in over a decade. In addition to the School subjects, I am quite good at chess, and I happen to like watching Quidditch...although I cannot play worth a darn.
Lily then paused, remembering a certain dark-haired, former friend of hers with a scowl, before continuing with a vengeful glare.
However, in case it doesn't mention it in my set of qualifications and such, I am a Muggleborn and proud of it! If you are one of those Pureblooded, pompous freaks who laugh as they call us 'Mudbloods', then I'll be happy to consider myself well shot of you after we fulfil the requirements, thank you very much!
However, if you don't care about stupid 'blood-purity', then I would be happy to try to make you my friend. Please at least consider it.
Perusing her letter, Lily scrutinized it carefully. The section about blood-purity might seem a bit...dramatic, but she just couldn't be friends with someone who thought less of her for her heritage.
Her ex-best friend Severus Snape had taught her that lesson brutally when he had insulted her in front of all of Hogwarts. He might have apologized, but until he stopped hanging around those other blood-purity fanatics, he was merely saying meaningless words. If he didn't believe what they said, then why did he want to be just like them?
'Forget about him,' Lily told herself, glancing across the Great Hall in the boy's direction as she did so, just for a moment. 'If he wants to be a Death Eater so bad, then he can do it on his own!'
Ignoring Potter's attempts to flatter her as she stood up, Lily quickly went up to the owlery and sent the letter. She idly wondered if the boy would even bother to reply at all.
It was a surprisingly short wait until she received a response. Barely two days passed before she received a reply from 'Perseus', whoever he was. As she had come to expect from the boy after his essay, it was arrogant, demeaning and aggravating in general, written in the same vaguely-familiar handwriting.
Merely passing a few rote tests is no sign of true intelligence; after all, most of students at your institution graduate, do they not? I have no doubt that I could have passed the majority of the tests I have taken by merely reading the textbook and regurgitating the information found therein. If they truly required use of intellect, then the vast majority of my peers would have been removed from the school after the end of the previous term.
Be that as it may, your point is...sound. The idea of speaking to someone as...enthusiastic as you would surely grate on my nerves, but it is probably best to deal with one another with as much civility as we can manage. (A difficult task, you can be sure.)
At least you are interested in useful subjects, with the odious exception of Care of Magical Creatures. (I have to deal with them enough dead; I'd rather not encounter them alive.)
However, I severely doubt that your skill in Potions is half of what you say it is; there is a vast difference between skill at brewing a potion and true mastery of the subject, as I would know. My professor simply isn't as skilled as I am in the subtle art and exact science, and that's all there is to it. I am loathe to believe that you could be any better.
In regards to becoming friends, I have considered it; I merely decided that I have better things to do than deal with an overly-pretentious, likely-dunderheaded female. One in a lifetime is more than enough, thank you very much.
Lily pursed her lips as she finished reading the last of his vast collection of insults; she hadn't expected all that much from Perseus, not really, but it was still infuriating that he apparently considered her to be little more than a gnat. It was as if all of her accomplishments were meaningless to him. The fact that he had no interest in friendship with her didn't bother Lily nearly as much as the fact he basically said she was worthless.
More than that, he had mocked her skills in potions; that was something which NO-ONE, not even Severus Snape himself, had dared to do even as a joke! She was the cleverest witch of her generation after all!
"Argh!" Lily let out her anger and annoyance in a low growl, glaring at the letter as she considered shredding it.
"Problems with your pen-pal?" came James Potter's voice from behind, making Lily jump. He then sat beside her on the couch, smirking arrogantly as his eyes dared her to move.
"Even if I was having problems, why would I want to tell you? I would prefer telling a troll!" snapped Lily, groaning in annoyance. Unfortunately, as embarrassing as Potter was, it would be even more of an aggravation for her to have to move, especially since she had been there first.
"Because you're madly in love with me after all. You need to tell me these things if we're going to have a trusting relationship after all," replied Potter smoothly. Lily rolled her eyes, her face heating up with embarrassment. Why couldn't the boy just take a hint and leave her alone?
However...Lily suddenly smirked, remembering something. "Actually," Lily purred, laughing inwardly. "There is something you can do for me..."
Potter leaned closer, clearly excited.
"You can go get Remus."
The handsome chaser fell over in surprise, causing Lily to grin at his shock. She then cleared her throat before saying in a much cooler voice, "At least he knows when someone is not interested. Go. Away."
Sighing, Potter left, leaving Lily to Perseus' irksome letter. Glaring down at it, she savagely penned her response:
I'm sorry, clearly all of those who pass those 'few rote tests' MUST be idiots. Oh wait! That would include you as well, wouldn't it? Even if your conclusion is sound, that those tests are easily passed by anyone capable of memorizing a few simple facts, that does nothing to prove your point that 'I' am stupid.
Please try harder next time.
I am glad to see that you are willing to speak with civility toward me; now if only you actually had the ABILITY, and not just the intention...then perhaps I would be able to account your biting letter as something resembling 'civil'. Until then though, again...TRY HARDER!
Admittedly, you have a fair point in regards to Care of Magical Creatures, even if I disagree with it. Don't forget, knowing how to tell what animals are healthy can be quite helpful in knowing which are best to have slaughtered for ingredients. Please at least consider that.
I am well aware that there is a vast difference between brewing a potion and mastering potion-making; however, I AM very talented in Potions, and am considering becoming a Potions Mistress myself. I am not ready to claim that I am your equal in the art--although I must express my doubt that anyone as snooty as you could be as skilled as I am, but I am certainly capable of doing any challenge you throw at me. As Muggles put it: 'Take your best shot!'.
Speaking of which, you never did say anything for or against the blood-purity issue. What are your thoughts on that?
'Overly-pretentious'? 'Likely-dunderheaded'? If anyone here has been 'overly-pretentious' so far, that person would surely be you! However, if your powers are so vast that you are capable of judging me so accurately on the basis of a single letter, PLEASE let me know where you got them!
Regardless, mind telling me a little bit about yourself? I, unlike YOU, prefer to KNOW that the person I am speaking with is a fool before calling them such!
Feeling a sense of grim satisfaction, Lily capped her quill with a flourish before making the long trek up the owlery. 'Take that, Toerag!'
Author's Note: I'm aiming for a very balanced fic this time, so expect almost zero bashing of James Potter...beyond what canon gives us.
I forgot to mention this in the first edition, but I'd like to think duj for something I can't mention lest I spoil the plot.
This was all betaed by Anachronistic Anglophile.