The Sugar Quill
Author: Author By Night  Story: Shadows of Self  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

            I was eating lunch when it happened. I saw the wettest girl at our school, Myrtle Veerden, coming towards us.  

            Well, I was already mad at her for showing me up in Potions the day before. How dare she – stupid Myrtle, who hardly ever got anything right, despite being in Ravenclaw– know an answer to something I didn’t? If only I’d been in Slytherin; it had been my second choice, but now, it was my first. They don’t have stupid Muggles making the pureblood witches and wizards look like dimwits.

            Not that I had a problem with Muggles or Muggle-borns, at least not the way many people did. I just felt – and still feel – that Muggle-borns don’t have as much place in the wizarding world.

            So I decided I was not going to let people think Myrtle was smarter. I stuck my foot out, and giggled as Myrtle fell.

            Anyone else would’ve glared at me, and been humiliated for about two seconds, and blushed a bit at the laughter, which would stop after a moment. Five minutes later, nobody would even remember it had happened.

            However, Myrtle was never like anyone else; she looked at me, and shouted, “OLIVE HORNBY, you – you rotten person!”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you!” I said innocently.

Myrtle’s eyes filled with tears, but amazingly enough, kept standing.  “I won’t let you do this to me anymore! I am a person with feelings!”

            I gasped mockingly. “Really? I figured you were actually a weeping willow tree that took on human traits and wore goggles – I mean, glasses!”

            Olive,” Thelma Corner whispered warningly. She had always been a softy. “Don’t.”

            Myrtle was taking several deep breaths. “Leave me alone.”

            I shrugged. “I don’t think I will, it’s too much fun waiting until you start crying really hard. Your glasses look even funnier when they are foggy from the tears.”

            Myrtle stamped her foot, opened her mouth – and then let out a sob.

            Virginia Higglewit and I started laughing, joined in by some others. Thelma gave me a hard nudge, but it just made me laugh louder.

            Myrtle started wailing, and ran off.

            “Oh, that was good,” Virginia said through spasms of laughter. “Really good.”

            “You shouldn’t have said that,” Thelma chastised. “You know she gets upset easily.”

            “You worry way too much,” I said casually, brushing back my long brown hair. “She’s probably going to forget about it and cry over something else.”

            “You know, she can be a nice person,” Thelma continued.

            “Look, let’s just finish lunch and go outside, I want to try and spot the giant squid,” Virginia interrupted.

            “Good idea,” I said.

            Thelma bit her lip, and then, with a sigh, finished her pumpkin juice and followed us towards the lake.

            The rest of the day was fairly normal. We had our feet in the lake until dinnertime, when we went back into the Great Hall. Everything was normal until just after I finished dinner.

            “Hey, have you seen Myrtle?” fifth year David Collins asked me, coming over.

            “I don’t think I have,” I replied. “Why?”

            “I was going to help her with her Herbology, but she never showed up, and I haven’t seen her anywhere,” he said. “Sherrie Diggle said she’d been in her dormitory  most of the day, sick with a cold, and that Myrtle hadn’t been there since this morning.”

            “She’s probably upset,” I said sadly.

            David frowned. “Were you picking on her again?”

“No, we just had a slight disagreement,” I answered sweetly. “She took what I was saying wrong.”

            “She’s never done anything to you, though,” David said. “It really hurts her that you treat her like scum.”

            “If she feels like I insult her, she only needs to stand up for herself,” I insisted.

 Why did people seem keen to defend Myrtle? What about me? She’d made me look stupid in front of everyone, raising her hand as soon as I got the answer wrong, and looking smug about it. But no, she gets away with it because she’s poor little Myrtle, who is also possibly in danger because of that supposed monster, who hates Muggle-borns, and I was sure it didn’t even really exist. Nathaniel Edwards had even acknowledged that the reason he was “Petrified” was actually due to a spell gone wrong.

            “I hope she’s all right…” Thelma said slowly, picking at her dinner.

            “For goodness’ sakes, Thelma, shut your trap about Myrtle’s supposed disappearance!” I exclaimed.

            I found myself thinking yet again that it was a shame I hadn’t been a Slytherin. The fact that I come from a noble family, and she doesn’t, would have been enough. That, and Slytherins are so easy to manipulate, once you’ve got enough influence, and I know I would’ve gotten enough.

            “Everything all right?” Professor Dippet asked, passing and raising his eyebrows.

            “Yes, we are just worried because Myrtle Veerden hasn’t been seen for a few hours,” I replied.

            For some strange reason, Dippet’s brow furrowed. “Is that so? Perhaps one of you should look for her.”

            I put my knife down. “Okay, I’ll look, even though I am certain there is no need to worry.”

            I ran out of the Great Hall, and made my way towards the nearest girls’ room She’s probably in one of the toilet stalls, sobbing, I thought to myself.

            I opened the door, and sure enough, saw legs on the floor; it seemed she was not only in the stall, she was curled up against it, crying.

 “Is that you, Myrtle?” I called scathingly. “Still crying? Professor Dippet’s sent me to look for you.” She didn’t need to know I’d volunteered to look, even if it wasn’t because I was concerned.

            There was no answer; I sighed, looked at the ceiling…

            And screamed.

            Myrtle’s ghost was staring down at me, glaring. “Found me, Olive?”

            I opened the door (which was unlocked), hoping this was some sort of joke. But it wasn’t.

            Myrtle’s body was on the floor, her eyes wide with horror. 

            “I wondered when you’d notice I’d died,” Myrtle continued.

            I started screaming, drowning out her words. Next thing I knew, Madam Hooch was taking me out of the room, telling me, “Shh, it’s okay… it’s okay…”

            I kept on screaming, unable to stop. She was dead.

            And it was all my fault.

            There were students coming towards us, some already in the girls’ room; I could hear Thelma and Virginia calling my name, but their voices were nothing except gusts of wind to me.

            The last thing I saw before blacking out was a Slytherin boy – he looked familiar, but he was at the other end of the hallway – watching us intently.

            Everything changed after that day. I was no longer respected by as many of my classmates – some people speculated that I’d killed Myrtle, of all people. The only ones who stood by me were my brother, Vincent, and Thelma.

            Myrtle continued to taunt me; she made my life miserable. She would show up in classes, telling everyone how I’d murdered her – not physically, but unintentionally, and that I’d ruined her life, and was ruining her death by just gawking at her. I would be eating lunch, and suddenly, she’d be screeching from behind.

            When I left Hogwarts, I hoped it would be over. But it wasn’t; during my first job interview, for a position at the Beast Division, she showed up cackling that I’d forgotten to include “bully and murder accomplice” on my resume. (I’ll never know exactly how she found out I was even at an interview).

Finally, four years after I’d left Hogwarts, at my brother’s wedding, she started singing “here comes the bride” to the tune of a death march, and interrogated his fiancé, asking if she realized what she was getting herself into, marrying the brother of a girl like me. She then asked me how I could stand there happily, knowing I’d caused her to run into that stall, only to never leave, and how even my beautiful robes were rebelling, though maybe it was because I was getting fat and ugly.

            Having had enough, I rushed out. Myrtle followed, yelling, “Now you know how it feels, don’t you? YOU KNOW HOW IT FEELS!”

            “Go away,” I protested, turning to face her angrily. “Go away!”

            “You never did,” Myrtle laughed. “You never went away, never left me alone. Why should I leave you alone? You made my life hell - now it’s time for tables to turn!”

            “I was twelve,” I spat. “Twelve!” 

            “So was I,” Myrtle replied coldly. “I died because of you!”

            I glared at her. “You died because you let everyone get to you, and ran into a bathroom stall! I’m sorry you died, but it wasn’t my fault!”

            Myrtle glowered. “Try telling that to yourself.”

            “Shove off,” Vincent said, coming over, still in his wedding robes. “Leave my sister alone, it was ten years ago!”

            “Makes no difference to me,” Myrtle snapped. “But you’ve forgotten I’d died, haven’t you? You didn’t even ever notice when I was living!”

            Myrtle burst into tears, as usual, and left.

            After that, I complained at the Ministry of Magic, and she was forced to stay at Hogwarts. But it was too late; I was through.

            I moved to France a month later, hiding from the world. I couldn’t go back – not until enough time would pass that they’d have no idea who I was.

            I didn’t return for another twenty years, until my brother was killed by You-Know-Who. By then, I was no longer Olive Hornby. I had cut my once long, wavy brown hair short, and I was no longer as slender as I used to be, though that had started happening far earlier. And I changed my name, so only a few people would know who I really was. To all others, I was nothing but an old name in a worn out address book in someone’s storage room.

            On my second day back home, I entered the building I had not set foot in for years. I was ushered to an office, and awaited the interview.

            Bartemus Crouch sat in front of me. “So, you desire a job with the Magical Law Enforcement?”

            I nodded eagerly. And perhaps a bit more, later. Power still intrigued me, especially now. I needed control.

            “And what is your name?”

            I smiled. “Dolores Umbridge.”

            I was going to start a new life – and make sure in this one, everyone would like me. Fear me, yes, but respect me all the same.

            And that I would not be remembered for the death of a classmate, because whether I liked it or not, I still remembered full well.

            The only way to not think about my part in a murder was to make sure nobody else did, either.

 

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