De profundis

by Monkeymouse


That which follows is from a document preserved in the Library of Hogwarts Academy:

My most beloved Perenelle,

In this Year of Our Lord 1610, British Muggule Christendom awaits with anticipation like unto a great conflagration, sweeping all before it, the appearance of a new vernacular edition of Holy Writ, styled the King James Bible in honour of the monarch who has overseen its preparation and publication. Yet, if such anticipation were doubled and redoubled, it would not equal my anticipation of your return to Hogwarts from your mission at Beauxbatons. I feel bereft without you by my side, and near to distraction that we are not even on the same island. I must possess my soul in patience until your return.

The Muggules have been rallying again, seeking out and persecuting our kind as best they are able. I have been blessed enough to have avoided such Inquisitions by staying safely within the walls of Hogwarts Castle for two centuries now. And yet, of my time here, I shall never forget one of the most important duties I had to perform as Potions Master, in that fateful year of 1535, wherein Sir Thomas More was separated from the King he so loyally served by the stroke of the headsman's axe on a trumped-up charge of treason. I speak, however, not of that travesty of justice, which shames both the Court and the Ecclesia, but of an Inquisition that took place in Scotland later that year.

Many of the Muggules of Scotland at that time would not even seek out a witch for trial, much less for punishment, were not some poor soul murdered or otherwise foully used. In this the Muggules would perceive the fruit of some wizard or witch in the noisome embrace of the Dark Arts, and yet, finding the fruit, would cast blindly about and miss discovering the tree from whence fell the fruit. In this manner, when a child named Eileen Bunbrae was found most foully eviscerated upon a hillside near the border, those of us at Hogwarts were aware that a depraved practitioner of the Dark Arts was abroad in the land. The presbyter near whom dwelt the child, however, summoned a witchfinder, who examined any and all persons who had had contact with the child of any sort. Of these, only a Benedictine monk, Brother Timothy, was detained, with an announcement that his trial would be held at once. What follows is an account, as well as I can sculpt one, from the memories of those of us who were there.


The morning of the 17th dawned cold and damp, as it so often does upon the borderlands as the year nears its end. The residents of Traquair House, being the family of Maxwell Stuart, had been dislodged for several days by the arrival of Witchfinder Simon Luthier, who did strongly suggest that the family would do well to pass a fortnight in Edinburgh, a mere thirty miles to the north. Once the house, which was itself rather a small castle, was commandeered by the Witchfinder, he immediately sent his agents abroad to listen to the local gossip of strange behaviour, in search of he who had defiled the young girl. On the third day one such agent reported back with news of a Benedictine monk behaving in a manner most strange. Luthier immediately ordered the monk brought to Traquair House, wherein he was immediately imprisoned in a "priest's room" at the end of a secret passage, heavily guarded and with no communication to the outside world.

Upon the third day, the prisoner was led out in chains to the family chapel. Witchmaster Luthier stood before the altar, as if offering divine service, with the constable of the district by his side. He raised a piece torn from a loaf of bread and threw it at the prisoner's feet, whereupon, in spite of his shackles, he dived toward the bread and began eating voraciously, for he had not been fed since his arrest. This gave Luthier an opportunity to examine the monk. He was of slightly less than average height and more than average girth. His head was shaven into the tonsure of the Benedictines, although it was unkempt and badly in need of care. Beneath it was a face which might have been that of a little boy. He set to the bread quite rapidly, yet, while some said at the time that his was the ravenous ferocity of a wolf, others saw in his attack upon the bread a sense of gratitude that not another meal would be lost.

Even as he tore pieces off of the bread, the Witchfinder suddenly shouted: "What is thy name?"

The monk was so startled that he nearly dropped the bread. "I, I am called Brother Timothy," he answered, trembling.

"And what did thy ma'am call thee?"

"Ah, begging your pardon, for my wits are not among the sharpest, but I was born Timothy McEachern."

"Where, pray, did Timothy McEachern take Orders?"

"At Coldingham Priory," the little man answered.

The Witchfinder dropped all courtesy and shouted at the monk. "And did the Order of Saint Benedict teach you to walk upon all fours like a dog?!"

"Upon Our Lady, I did no such--"

"You were seen!" thundered Luthier. "A girl from the village bringing you milk saw you before your hearth upon your hands and knees."

"But I can explain. I was kneeling before the fire, praying to Our Father Who art..."

"You were seen and you were heard! Do not think that you can lie to me now, for you were seen on all fours, not in an attitude of prayer, and speaking into the fire. Were you addressing some unholy salamander?"

"There is no such monster in my house..."

"And you were heard to utter a foul name of Satan!"

"I assure you I never..."

"She heard you call on Beelzebub!"

At this the monk fell silent, and looked steadily at the floor. When he next spoke, it was in a hushed voice that others in the chamber had to strain to hear. "The girl is an innocent child, and she misunderstood. I ... I admit to talking into the grate, but I spoke not the name of Beelzebub."

"What name did you say, then?"

Again, the monk fell silent, and it was with the passage of several minutes that he again spake the single word: "Hufflepuff."

"And what might a Hufflepuff me?"

"She was a person, Helga Hufflepuff, dead these three centuries past."

"And you sought illicit communion with the souls of the dead?"

"No, eminent Witchfinder. I meant only to, to speak to the Headmaster of my school."

"If you believe that you attended school in a grate, Brother Timothy, I fear that Satan has turned your wits."

"My mind is clear; it is my soul which must be unburdened. I must tell a terrible truth now, and must suffer for it. Yet I am fearful. I never had the courage of a Gryffindor, you see."

"What truth can we expect from a monk who babbles gibberish?"

"The truth that, that..." And here Brother Timothy commenced sobbing into the palms of his hands, and would not stop for a very long time.

Witchfinder Luthier ordered a full and proper dinner table to be set in the chapel. When all was prepared, guards helped Brother Timothy to stand upon his feet, whereupon he was helped to the seat at the end of the table. "Eat and drink whatsoever you will," he told the monk, "to fortify yourself for the terrible truth you must tell." For the Witchfinder knew well his "Malleus Maleficarum," that compendium of the tools of the witch-hunter's trade, wherein it is written that acts of kindness and of cruelty should be commingled when interrogating some suspected witches, the better to throw them off of their guard.

Brother Timothy set to the plates of meat and bread, and drank freely of a pitcher of milk, ere he spoke again. "May the Lord God and His Christ reward you for your charity," he sighed.

"That will be as it will be. But who are you to speak of things divine, with the weight of murder on your soul?"

"Murder?" Brother Timothy was once again startled into abject fear. "I have never raised my hand..."

"Except toward Eileen Bunbrae," scowled the constable.

"Poor child," muttered Brother Timothy, wringing his soft and pale hands. "Poor, poor child. If I could have done something..."

"You have done much already. Now we need to know why!"

"Why? What have I ... But I told you I touched not the girl!"

"Murdered, gutted like a fish, subjected to unholy carnal acts..."

"NO! I didn't do any of it!"

"Nor did you seek out her killer."

"But there is the shame of it. I know who did the deed, for he confessed it to me, knowing that I could not break the seal of confession. He is an evil man, a truly foul and evil man, hiding behind my silence. He is the worst Muggule whom I--" Again, Brother Timothy fell silent.

When Luthier spoke again, it was softly and with fatherly concern. "I will explain your situation to you, Brother Timothy, for you seem not to appreciate it. Three times today have you spoken nonsensical words to this court, and even spake of consorting with this dead woman..." Here he turned to the scribe at his right hand and read the record; "Helga Hufflepuff. Your fate seems sealed now, but there is one hope. Let your other sins be as they will be; if you but name the killer of Eileen Bunbrae, you will be absolved from breaking the seal of confession."

Brother Timothy remained in an agitated state for a little while longer, until he took a mighty breath and spoke a name: "Conor. Conor Tavish."

Upon hearing the name, the constable left the chapel. Luthier clapped a fatherly hand upon Brother Timothy's shoulder. "The truth was not so terrible after all, was it?"

"That was not the truth I meant," the monk sighed. "Still, why may I not have a Gryffindor's daring?"

"You speak nonsense again. Did you falsely name the killer?"

"No! No, I swear it!"

"Then who or what are you, that you babble so?"

The monk swallowed, took a deep breath, and said, simply, "I am a wizard."

The only sound in the room was the spitting of a candle. The Witchfinder began to pace. "Conjure me something, then. Turn water into wine; turn sticks into snakes."

"You speak blasphemy!"

"As do you! Are you so addled that you believe yourself to be a wizard?"

"But I am! Er, I was. I mean, I went to school as a youth, but I ... I was a Squib."

"Again you speak nonsense!"

"It means I was of a wizard family, and showed some promise in my youth, but, alas, I could work no magick at all. So I left school early and sought out the Benedictines."

"What is this school you speak of; a school for wizards?"


Luthier had been joking, but the mocking smile was stricken from his face by this answer. "Can there be such a place?"

"There is, but you'll never find it."

"What makes you think that I want to find it?" snarled Luthier. "A malignant swamp, a breeding ground for pestilence and Satanic filth!"

"A swamp that you would seek to drain, to kill all the children within: aye, children, as innocent as the dead Bunbrae girl. Their only sin is that of being born witches and wizards, whose parents and grandparents also studied the arts of magick. But the school wherein they study protects itself by charms and spells that you can never break. And I will not help you."

"Name the school! Name the place of it!"

The monk turned pale, but said, with more resolution in his voice than had been heard all day, "Never."

The Witchfinder actually grabbed a knife from off the dinner table and held the point of it under the monk's jowly chin. "You have sealed your fate already by confessing to be a wizard! You will be put to death! Your life and your soul are forfeit!!"

The monk shivered as if in a snowstorm, but his gaze and his voice were steady as he replied, "Then what have I left to lose?"

The Witchfinder angrily cast aside the knife and strode from the room, shouting at the guards, "He dies at sunset tomorrow!"


At that time, the Headmaster of Hogwarts was Abelard Fortescue, a wise and knowledgeable wizard well-schooled in the arts of the past. He also, as a former student in Hufflepuff House, was possessed of great empathic gifts, able to read the moods and intentions behind nervous students and belligerent Muggules alike, instilling peace into their souls with but a few words. Such was his compassion that he worked fully as much magick with his words as with his wand.

When Brother Timothy, yclept Timothy McEachern, tried to speak to someone at Hogwarts via the Floo, he was directed to the hearth in Headmaster Fortescue's office. Under more felicitous circumstances the two would have seemed as brothers, for both were round of face and body and possessed of good humour. But the agitated Timothy could speak only of the murder of the young girl and his fear of persecution at the hands of outraged Muggules. The Headmaster, alas, could spend little time with Timothy that day, and promised to speak with him again. However, later attempts to contact the monk were fruitless. Suspecting that there had, indeed, been repercussions, he dispatched Flight Instructor Emelda Toonce, under a Cloak of Invisibility, who had the good fortune to witness Brother Timothy being taken into Traquair House. She immediately returned to Hogwarts and relayed her news to the Headmaster, whereupon he assembled a party of rescue, of which I was privileged to be a part.

When we arrived at Traquair House, however, a stake had already been prepared in the space near the stables. We were obliged to take cover in the woods, and watched as Brother Timothy was led in shackles to the stake and chained to it. Were he a Hogwarts graduate, we had no doubt that a Freezing Charm would protect him; yet, as the Headmaster reminded us, he was a Squib and unable to help himself.

In any event, the young monk did not struggle, allowing himself to be chained to the stake. When this was done, Witchfinder Luthier called out: "You have one last chance to renounce your sins! Tell me where this school of yours is and you shall live."

By way of reply, the monk closed his eyes, raised his face to the sky, and began to sing in a clear and untroubled voice:

"De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine!"

"Blasphemy!" Luthier took the torch from the hand of a guard and threw it on the pyre. Immediately the wood caught and began to burn fiercely, although the monk, now seeming utterly serene, continued singing.

Headmaster Fortescue could no longer contain himself and drew forth his wand. "Zephyrus!" As soon as he spoke, fierce winds began to lash the clearing and all who were near it. While Luthier and his men were buffeted by the Wind Charm and blinded by the dust and ashes raised by the winds, I was able to Locomotor the body of Brother Timothy out of the fire and into the woods beyond the clearing. Whereupon we mounted our brooms and immediately returned to Hogwarts, with Brother Timothy floating behind us.

When the winds died down and Luthier and his men beheld that the monk had vanished, it is said that he repented his actions and resigned his position as Witchfinder, for he believed that Brother Timothy had been translated up to Heaven by a Just and Loving God. Which was not true, of course, but he would have deserved no less.


When we arrived at the castle, the badly burned monk was made comfortable in the first bed we could find, while I retired to the Potions donjon to prepare an elixir to ease his pain. This we administered with great difficulty, as even drawing breath was a painful labour for the former Hufflepuff, but after a time he was able to open one eye, whereupon he recognized me.

"Have I died, Professor?" were the first words from his blackened lips.

"You are very close to it," spake the Headmaster. "I only regret that we could not have acted sooner, and spared you the indignities your flesh has suffered."

"That is as nothing," the monk haltingly said, "for my heart is glad that I did not reveal the name or location of Hogwarts. May God forgive me."

"I'm sure that He has," Headmaster Fortescue smiled upon the monk. "But now, Brother Timothy, I must put you to one final test. Our Potions Master can restore you to full health, if you wish to return to the world beyond these castle walls."

"I am dead to that world," spake the monk, without a trace of bitterness in his voice, "as that world is dead to me. I must confess, to you here and to the Almighty, that, even as I lived to serve amongst the Muggules, my thoughts would ever stray back to my boyhood in Hogwarts. I found such happiness here as I can never express, and I am brimful with joy at seeing it one last time before I die."

Whereupon he turned his eyes toward the ceiling, breathed one final, heavy sigh, and gave up the ghost.

Quite literally.

For we did behold the charred body collapse slightly, as a bladder with a hole which lets out the air within. As we watched, the ghostly unburnt form of the monk sat up, detatching itself from the corpse it had until recently occupied. He looked through his hands, realizing where he was and what he had become, gave a short cry, and, covering his face with his hands, sank to his knees (which themselves sank an inch or so into the stone floor).

Headmaster Fortescue stepped forward. "I am sorry for thee, with thy spirit still inhabiting this place and as yet unable to rise up to Heaven."

Whereupon our ghostly monk dropped his hands from his face, which beamed forth like the sun. "Do not apologize, Headmaster. God has indeed forgiven me, for I feel that I am in Heaven. Hogwarts has always been kinder to me than this poor world, even though I was such a Squib of a wizard. If it please you, I would gladly remain here until the trumpet sounds which heralds the end of the world."

I confess, my dear, that this exchange brought tears of joy to my ancient eyes, as the Headmaster spake, "You are most welcome here until that time. In return, I name thee Spiritus Principalus of Hufflepuff, that you may watch over and protect the young witches and wizards of your old House."

At this, the ghostly monk did burst into such a beautifully sung series of Glorias and Hallelujahs as has surely never been heard in Hogwarts.


Thus did Brother Timothy, born Timothy McEachern, return to Hufflepuff House as a ghost. While we of the faculty tried to correctly address him as Brother Timothy, in time the students began teasing him about his girth, for truly he was very corpulent in life and appeared so after death. Residents of the other Houses began calling him the Fat Friar, and even those of Hufflepuff House began to do the same ere long. Which did not displease Brother Timothy, who did love the students of his House, and of his school, with such devotion as would have caused him to die again and again rather than let even a harsh word offend against any of them. He even managed to interpose himself between the Bloody Baron and such other ghosts who incurred his formidable displeasure, bringing a measure of peace to Hogwarts which had not existed before.

As it was truly spoken by the Muggule Messiah, Blessed are the peacemakers. I am reminded of this every time I see Brother Timothy, or hear his counsel to some student or other, knowing full well how he came to Hogwarts as a student full of hope, only to leave crushed with disgrace, and yet return at the last to receive double the measure of happiness that he truly deserved.

May we both find such happiness upon this poor earth, my beloved, and may the days pass more quickly than the beating wings of a Snitch until we may be together again.

Your lonely and devoted husband,

Nicholas Flamel

Potions Master


A/N: The Malleus Maleficarum is a real guide for witch-hunters, written in the 15th Century. And Brother Timothy was singing Psalm 130 in Latin: "Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord."