Author note: Diana Summers's intriguing essay, "Secrets of the Class List," got me thinking about Terry Boot and Anthony Goldstein and their tenuous position in the rationalist world of Ravenclaw and the secular world of Hogwarts. My subsequent conclusions and inventions are, of course, my own. Although Jesse Boot, the founder of the pharmacy chain Boots, was a Nonconformist, I've made Terry and his family Anglicans with an evangelical streak. This is, I think, not implausible—as the family's wealth and status grew, some of the Boots might well have returned to the established church, while retaining their evangelical sensibilities.
The plot and characterizations in this story are, of course, informed by my personal understanding of Judaism and Christianity. I know these religions in different ways: Judaism mainly as a practitioner (my academic knowledge is paltry), Christianity mainly as a historian who specializes in the early modern era (Protestant Reformation to 19th century). A few Christian readers have commented that certain key details of Terry's inner life are missing or slightly off-target. I trust their judgment, and I hope that other readers who feel the same way will not take offense. I wanted to write a story about Jewish and Christian students at Hogwarts finding common ground in their (by wizarding standards) abnormal religiosity, and a story like that will, almost inevitably, be written by someone who knows one religion more intimately than the other.
At the conclusion of each chapter, you will find a brief glossary of Hebrew and Yiddish terms that may be unfamiliar to some readers.
Chapter 1: Leaving Home
He was mercilessly teased at his Muggle primary school. Teased and teased, and yet how the teachers thrilled to meet his father, and still more his grandfather, and how his small classmates gloried in their fieldtrip to help with inventory, in their full-day holiday among the glorious mess of numbers and colors, of packets and powders and potions. Terry wasn't even a direct heir of Jesse Boot, merely a collateral descendant. Granddad's grandfather had gotten in on the ground floor, bought a few shares and then a few more, and on the strength of those few shares had risen the mock Tudor villa on the outskirts of Nottingham, the missionary lodge in Chad, the Cadbury-Boot scholarship to Ridley Hall, Cambridge, and the modernist communion ware, daintily inscribed to the memory of Terry's great-grandfather, that now graced St. Peter's Parish Church. The grammar school he didn't go to was a fee-paying one, richly endowed, and the friends he left behind were not the children who played kick-the-can in the street of a summer evening but the deceptively angelic fellow sopranos of the Nottingham Cathedral Boys' Choir.
Terry's parents had been quite relaxed and unjudgmental about his wizarding skills. Unusually accepting, as Terry discovered when he went to Hogwarts. They fretted a bit about the lack of religion classes and music lessons, but that was all, and he was grateful for that. So what if he was the only boy in his class who was obliged to spend his summer vacations distributing medical supplies in Chad? There were compensations. The unaccepting ones were his Ravenclaw classmates, whose ignorance of the Muggle world was matched only by their prejudice. He got used to translating soon enough; he got used to telling his clueless pureblood classmates that Mum was a Healer and Dad worked in Potions. "But I thought Muggles didn't have Potions!" protested eleven-year-old Morag McDougal over lunch one day. "Why, what do you think a Muggle does if he has a headache?" exclaimed Terry. "Well, I thought you'd just put up with it, or else you'd—well, die," explained Morag, as Lisa Turpin nodded skittishly beside her. Terry was so shocked he didn't know what to say, especially as Morag was cute to a degree that even an eleven-year-old couldn't help but notice. Then the boy across the table abruptly burst into peals of hysterical laughter.
And so he found Anthony, the only wizard-born boy in their entire year who knew the words "obstetrician" and "pharmaceuticals."
The first time he followed Anthony up three dim flights of stairs to the Goldsteins' rabbit warren of a top-floor flat, the working-class odors of mildew, paint, and cooking grease assailed him. Even more than the day he stepped foot in Hogwarts, he felt as if he were entering another world. The Goldsteins were said to be in the antiques business, but even before he met Anthony's people, Terry had intuited that "antiques" was, in large measure, a euphemism for junk. Seeing their modest, "antique"-filled flat for the first time, he knew his guess was right. Anthony strode off, faintly embarrassed, carrying Terry's knapsack. Anthony's brother Jake, eleven then, was standing at the stove in a Chudley Cannons hat and a frilly apron that read, Kiss Me, I'm Part-Veela, cooking hamburgers in the Muggle fashion, with elbow grease instead of magic. (Departing six days later, Terry discreetly inquired why Mrs. Goldstein never cooked, and Anthony said airily, "Oh, Mum was raised Communist," as if that answered the question. Terry still longed to ask, "Don't Communists eat?") At the table, Meir read haltingly from a Superman comic book. One could trace the Goldsteins' ascending Jewish consciousness in the names of their three sons.
That was five years ago. Now he runs up and down those dim malodorous stairs every vacation, and Jake and Meir might as well be his own brothers. They sleep four to a room, on two sets of bunk beds. He serves as their Shabbas goy, flicking the electrical lights on and off on Friday nights when they're not supposed to do so themselves, though Anthony and Meir do it freely enough when their parents aren't looking—Jake not so much. He hangs around the antiques shop in the lazy late summer afternoons and details the intricacies of Hogwarts life to Ruth Goldstein, who is Muggle, and whose curiosity has not been sated by the rushed fragmentary explanations of her male relations.
"How did they meet?" he asked Anthony one evening, that first summer, as they played Gobstones in the more or less private and at least mildly breezy environment of the flat's roof. (The Goldsteins do not have central air.)
"Who meet?" asked Anthony, pawing through a plastic cup of Gobstones.
"They met at a kosher deli in Whitechapel. Mum was working at the Yiddish Socialist press in Whitechapel High Street, and she used to go in regularly for lunch."
"What about your father? He's pureblood, isn't he, more or less? Did he just like frequenting Muggle restaurants?"
Anthony grimaced. "He liked the pastrami, mostly. Says you can't decent pastrami in Diagon Alley, much less Hogsmeade. Well, he's right, you can't."
Anthony flicked a shiny green Gobstone across the chalk circle they'd drawn on the roof. Terry lobbed a small blue Gobstone at it, sending it off-course. Anthony quickly deflected it with a red Gobstone, which not only returned the green Gobstone to its proper course but sent Terry's blue Gobstone spiraling into a puddle of grease in the corner.
"I think he was trying to meet a Jewish woman, actually," muttered Anthony. "That's why he started going to shul in the first place, too. Before he got so damned frum."
Terry wiped the blue Gobstone on the cuff of his shorts and flicked it into the circle, displacing two of Anthony's.
"Do you think it's been difficult for him, being married to a Muggle?" asked Terry cautiously. "Or—well, has it sometimes been difficult for your mother?"
Anthony shrugged. "Oh—I suppose. I mean, it feels normal to all of us. I know that some of the kids at school think it's weird, but I'd rather be the child of a mixed marriage than be a pureblood ignoramus like Morag or Lisa—"
"Or Padma," suggested Terry.
"No, Padma's not an ignoramus," retorted Anthony. "I know magic-Muggle marriages don't usually work out well, but it's just not a big deal for us. It hasn't been any harder than—well, than our being kind of poor. Or being Jewish."
"Would you do it yourself?" probed Terry. "Marry a Muggle?"
Anthony shrugged. "Sure, why not? Anyway, I may have to." He aimed a tawny-hued Gobstone at the cluster in the center of the circle and sent Terry's refurbished blue Gobstone spinning out of the circle, unfortunately dislodging two of his own in the process.
"Have to?" asked Terry, dropping the heavy gray-streaked Gobstone he had been considering as a weapon. "Have to? Why?"
"I mean, if I'm going to marry Jewish."
"You wouldn't marry a Jewish witch?"
"You know any Jewish witches?"
Terry considered a moment. "No," he remarked, slightly startled.
"Know how many Jewish witches and wizards there are in the U.K.?"
"Not very many?"
"Twenty-three," said Anthony. "Twenty-three. That includes me, my father, my brothers, my cousins in Manchester—and let me tell you, I am not going to marry a first cousin—setting aside the fact that they're ten years older than me and ugly as sin—"
"I hadn't thought about that," admitted Terry. "So yeah, looks like you'll have to marry a Muggle. And Jake and Meir."
Anthony flicked a Gobstone viciously at the gray-streaked stone Terry had placed near the edge of the circle, and missed. "Or maybe I'll marry out," he said grimacing. "Or maybe I won't get married at all. I'll just take lovers. And concubines. That's one of the things in my parsha. Concubines."
"Would your parents mind?"
"If I took concubines?"
"If you married someone who wasn't Jewish."
"They're really religious, aren't they?"
"Yes," said Anthony gloomily. "But they know the odds. Game?"
"It's getting dark."
"Okay, let's pack up then. Would your parents mind?" he added. "If you married someone who wasn't Christian?"
"A little," said Terry. "But it's—well, it's different. I mean, being Christian is more of an individual thing. You accept Jesus on your own, and you take communion on your own, and basically, you can be a Christian on your own, even if you're not married to one. What matters is your own true faith. What's in your heart."
"Sounds easier," said Anthony. "But I don't see the point. I don't think I'd bother to be Jewish if my family weren't."
"Jake would," pointed out Terry.
"Yeah," said Anthony morosely, swinging one leg over the brick ledge onto the fire escape. "Yeah, Jake would."
Shabbas goy: a non-Jewish servant who performs certain tasks that Jews are not permitted to perform on the Sabbath.
frum: pious, religiously observant
parsha: a unit of the five Books of Moses (typically, a few chapters) that is chanted in synagogue on Saturday morning. Every Jewish child prepares a parsha, or a portion thereof, to read aloud at his or her bar or bat mitzvah celebration.