Alice Longbottom's point of view. In second person. Written for the HPFC Marlicat's A-Word Challenge. I was given the word ataraxia and the character Alice Longbottom and my mind just grabbed it and ran away before I even looked up the word. Enjoy!
The first time you hear it is in first year. Lily Evans, one of your best friends, tells it you and you never forget it. At the time, you're in a horrible fight with her because she caught you copying her homework, and even though you protest that you really needed it, she doesn't care. And yet you sit on your bed,, quietly taking in all she yells at you, not moving, not floored, not even showing signs of anger.
"ATARAXIA!" she shouts finally, after almost half an hour of rather loud lecturing. "THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE IN, ALICE! THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE ALWAYS IN!!"
"And what, exactly, is ataraxia?" you inquire pleasantly.
"Oh, look it up," fumes Lily before storming out of the common room.
Your dorm mates, Marlene McKinnon, Natasha Amolt, and Kristina Eureind emerge from where they'd been hiding – under their beds – to see you paging through a dictionary.
"Ataraxia," you read aloud. "The absence of anxiety, a calm and tranquil state." You look up at your friends, bewildered. "That's not even an insult!"
"I know," comes a small voice from the doorway. You look up and see Lily. For a few moments, you simply look at each other.
"When I'm wrong but don't want to admit it," she explains, "I use big words."
And then you both laugh, and make up, and it's your last fight for a long time, and after a few days, it slides from your head completely. But the word never fades.
"OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD! AAAALLLLIIIII!"
You look up from your reading, perfectly calm, the world ataraxia bubbling through your head. "Calm down, Lily."
"Oh no, oh oh oh oh no, oh what am I going to do-o-o-o-oo-ooo-ooooooooooooo," Lily wails, storming into the dormitory and collapsing on her bed.
"Lily, whatever it is," you say soothingly, "it'll be okay. It's gonna be fine. It's gonna be fine."
"Alice – " Lily hiccups, looking up at you, eyes red. "Ali, my dad – my dad's – "
"Whatever happened, it'll all be fine," you promise.
"He's dead," she moans, pummeling the pillow.
"Yes, Lily, I know," you say patiently. "We all know. It happened four weeks ago – not, of course, that makes it any less important..it's okay, Lily, it's okay, just calm down, it's all okay."
"No it's not," shrieks Lily. "I just – I just got back from home and – Mum – she doesn't want me anymore – she think this is all my fault – they've kicked me out, Alice! THEY'VE KICKED ME OUT! I'M ONLY SIXTEEN – I'M ONLY SIXTEEN! Oh, what am I going to DO? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO-O-O-O-O-O-O-OOOOOOO?"
And then you hold her and let her cry and rage and scream, and when she's does and she's just a broken shell of a girl, whimpering in your arms.
"It's okay, Lily," you whisper. "It's okay, it's okay. It's very simple."
"Wh-what?" she hiccups. "How?"
"You'll just move in with me!"
Lily blinks a few times. "R-really? You mean it?"
"Of course I do!" you exclaim, and you do.
Lily moans relief. "Oh thank you thank you, thank you, Alice," she cries. "What would I do – what I do if – "
"Well, you wouldn't, because you don't have to," you say firmly.
She smiles. "Alice, sometimes," she whispers, "your ataraxia comes in handy."
You smile and comb your hand through her hair. You don't say anything, but inside you're radiating with joy that you've managed to make her okay, but still, only one word is flashing through your mind.
"AAGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! STOP! PLEASE! NO! NO! ! ARRRRRGGGGGGGGGH! NO – STOP – PLEASE – PLEASE!"
"TELL ME WHAT I WANT TO KNOW, LONGBOTTOM," roars Bellatrix Lestrange, "TELL ME AND I'LL LET YOU GO!"
"NEVER – NO – ! PLEASE – STOP – JUST STOP!"
Pain. Pain. Pain like a thousand stabbing knives. But you won't tell. You'll never tell. Not even – "!"
And then nothing.
When you open your eyes – who are you? What is..no..nothing. There's nothing.
Except one very familiarly strange sensation. You can't quite place why you know it, but you know what is, and you have it now.
You settle into the familiar sensation, into an eternity of nothingness – but it's not nothingness. It's ataraxia.