Chapter 9: Solo
Terry and Kevin were lolling in the dormitory, Terry leafing distractedly through J.R.R. Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring and Kevin debating the comparative merits of various broomsticks, more to himself than to Terry, on the night when the Battle of Hogwarts erupted in the Astronomy Tower.
"There, that's the one I want," announced Kevin, holding up an animated multi-page spread in Which Broomstick. "They cut the price on the Nimbus 2000 when the Nimbus 2001 came out, and it's quite economical now. My parents said they'd get me a broom as a coming-of-age present—they mean eighteen, of course, not seventeen—"
"Mm-hm," murmured Terry. His own seventeenth birthday had passed without comment. His parents weren't really into present-giving at birthdays. They tended to see each passing year as a fresh occasion to recommit oneself to the service of mankind, not to acquire Game Boys and silver watches and the like. But Terry, awaking in the frosty dormitory on the morning of his seventeenth birthday, had realized with a jolt that he was not only of age in the wizarding world but also older than the majority of the population of Chad. He had entered the senior half of one of his small worlds. Given how little I have things figured out, he reflected, it's no wonder Chad is such a mess, dominated as it is by an adolescent population . . .
"They're awfully chuffed about Robby going to university," continued Kevin, leaning back on his bed and staring up at the heavy blue draperies that surmounted it. "He's only the second person in the family to go. One of my cousins was at Leicester, but York is in a whole other league . . ."
"It's very well ranked," allowed Terry.
"They keep asking me if I won't go, too. It would be one up on the aunts and uncles if I did—two sons who're university graduates—and they keep pointing out that I got As on four of my OWLs. Of course they don't understand that the As were the grades I was the least happy with . . ."
"What about your parents?" asked Kevin. "Do they want you to go to university?"
"Uh—no, not particularly," said Terry. "It hasn't really come up. I mean, they'd be happy if I did go, but I think it would be equally all right if I didn't." He always found his parents' attitude a little hard to explain to his classmates. They genuinely trusted him. He hadn't realized how unusual that was until he came to Hogwarts.
"Do they like the Healing scheme?"
Terry shrugged. His NEWT program was technically pre-Healing, not because he was particularly committed to it, but simply because he had to have some system for choosing which NEWTs to take, and pre-Healing made Flitwick happy. In fact, though, a Healing career, even—especially—a career in Emotional Management Healing, which is what he'd told Flitwick he'd do, was starting to seem pretty pointless. Without the ethical component, without the spiritual component, Emotional Management Healing was just so much navel-gazing. He knew if he tried to analyze other wizards' emotional management problems, he'd soon end up quoting the Bible at them, or quoting René, or alternatively quoting Jake, and that's not what wizards want to hear . . .
"Was that thunder?" said Kevin suddenly.
"It sounds like a bolt of lightening struck very close to the castle."
"Maybe even struck one of the towers?" guessed Kevin.
"Maybe," said Terry, tossing down the Tolkien. "Oxford has a joint degree course in Philosophy and Theology," he said quietly.
"You want to be a pastor?!" exclaimed Kevin. "A Muggle pastor?"
"No," said Terry. "I thought about it when I was a kid, but it doesn't make sense any more." He sighed. "Still, the Muggles know some things we don't. I wish I could bring the good parts of the Muggle world into this world."
"Personally," said Kevin, staring up at the blue draperies, "personally, I'm quite happy to be quit of it . . ."
There was a ruckus on the stairs, and Jake, the youngest of the prefects, burst abruptly into their dormitory and flew to the nearest trunk.
"What the—" began Kevin.
"What's wrong?" asked Terry.
"This isn't Anthony's trunk," muttered Jake, kicking it aside.
"It's Michael's," said Terry. "That one's Anthony's." He pointed. "But why—"
Jake threw open Anthony's trunk and started tossing the contents on the floor: battered textbooks, sweaty Quidditch clothing, wrinkled pyjamas that, Terry strongly suspected, were handed down from Zaide, but none of them said anything, not even Michael, because they didn't want to make Anthony feel bad. "Where is it?"
"Where is what?" said Terry patiently.
"Aha!" Jake lifted the enchanted Galleon from the D.A. aloft and slammed the trunk shut. "It's burning hot!"
Terry jumped off his bed and grabbed the Galleon from Jake's hand. So it was.
"Will you please tell me what the hell is going on?" said Kevin.
"Your call," said Jake, gesturing to Terry.
"What is going on?" said Terry. "Where's your brother?"
"Doing Transfiguration homework with Padma. I'm going to go tell them, and see what's up. Tell Kevin or not, but get going." Jake disappeared down the stairs.
"Terry, will you please stop talking in code and take a minute to tell what the hell is going on around here?"
"Get your wand," said Terry, "and put on your shoes." And he told him.
The Common Room was in an uproar. Flitwick was nowhere to be found, and the seventh-year prefects were both mysteriously absent. ("Rendez-vous," muttered Michael, "Quidditch pitch, the foolish bastards, but don't say I told you.") Authority thus devolved on Anthony and Padma, neither of whom had the slightest inclination to stay put when the enchanted coins were burning. Anthony was guarding the port hole like an attack dog, periodically stealing glances into the corridor, while Padma tried to persuade an increasingly hysterical Emily Sansom, Jake's opposite number as fifth-year prefect, to take charge of the disorderly scene in the Common Room. Jake, growing impatient, threw up his hands at Emily Sansom and declared, "Well, we'll just have to divide forces. I'm going now. Who's with me?"
"I am," shouted Michael, and Anthony pulled open the porthole. Jake and Michael tumbled into the hallway one after the other, to the sound of heavy boots crunching on the stone pavement. And then, sickeningly, came two dull thuds, one after another, on the grimy flagstones. Anthony, climbing out the porthole, collapsed suddenly on the threshold and started sobbing, "M-m-malfoy!" as blood poured from a score of small wounds.
"Malfoy?" asked Terry, as he and Kevin rushed forward to pull Anthony through the porthole. He was heavier than they had reckoned on—the largest of the three boys—and he collapsed again, painfully, on the low divider at the foot of the porthole, clutching his stomach.
"Malfoy—in the corridor—cried 'Secta-sem-s-s—'"
"Did Jake and Michael go after him?"
"I'm—black out," muttered Anthony, clutching the side of his chest. "Blood—." Emily Sansom burst into tears.
"Terry," said Kevin quietly, peering out the porthole, "Terry, we've got a problem."
"They're—they're not dead?" breathed Padma, who had crept up behind Kevin and was peering over his shoulder.
"Who—who dead?" sniffed Emily, as Claire, who had been trying to comfort her, froze.
"They're not dead," said Terry, hastily unbuttoning Anthony's shirt.
"Terry," whispered Kevin, so low that only Padma could hear, "it doesn't look good." Padma, holding her wand before her in both hands, like a candle, was already slipping into the corridor.
"Someone's got to cover her," muttered Terry in anguish. "Kevin, just go. Carefully, and not far. Claire—Cho—anyone, would you please pull Anthony out of the porthole and lay him out on one of the sofas—or the floor in you can't lift him. He's in a dead faint and he's bleeding all over. Take off all of his outer clothes and use them as bandages—the worst damage seems to be on the arms and chest—we've got to get help, only I don't know where Flitwick is and I don't see how we're going to get Madam Pomfrey up here tonight—" for in the distance, through the open porthole, they could now hear explosions echoing through the stone corridors.
Claire and Cho, who loathed each other, nevertheless both stepped forward and pulled Anthony heavily from the doorway. Emily Sansom, sniffing heavily, herded the younger students to the far end of the Common Room and forbid them to open the windows. Mandy Brocklehurst, in a rare burst of inspiration, tossed some Floo Powder in the fireplace and teleconferenced with Madam Pomfrey—and so they first heard that the Dark Mark had been seen above the Astronomy Tower.
In the corridor, Padma and Kevin had pulled the inert bodies of Jake and Michael to the side wall and lined them up head to toe. "They're breathing," Padma reassured Terry when he came to look. "It wasn't Avada Kedavra. Just a couple of Stunners, or a Freezing Charm. That's probably what got Anthony too."
"They're not bleeding like Anthony," pointed out Kevin. "I think they're just Stunned, but Anthony got hit by something else."
"How do you treat Stunning?" muttered Terry, very conscious that a doctor's son—and pre-Healing student—ought to know that sort of thing. "How long does it last?"
"Not very long," said Kevin. "But they both fell flat-out on the stone pavement—there's probably concussion on top of the Stunning—"
"We should get them back into the Common Room," sighed Terry. "You're strong enough to hold one end, right, Padma? I don't want to bring more people out into the corridor if we can help it."
"Aren't we going to go find the battle?" asked Kevin.
Terry shrugged. "We don't even know where it is."
"It's in the Astronomy Tower," hallooed Mandy helpfully from the porthole. "At least one dead already, Madam Pomfrey said."
Terry shook his head. "I don't mean to be a coward," he said quietly to Kevin and Padma. "But we've got to start by addressing the problems we've got here."
Jake, slightly bruised about the cheekbones, rapped on the door of the sixth-year dormitory when Terry was packing after the funeral. "I just wanted to say goodbye," he said. "Professor Flitwick told me that Hogwarts might not reopen in the autumn."
Terry bit his lip. Rumors had been circulating, but this was the first official news he had heard.
"If it doesn't open," said Jake, "you're welcome to come stay with us in London. Anthony's going to try to finish his NEWT courses on his own—he's mad as hell right now, all charged up to get qualified and fight—and we'll be easy to reach if anything happens."
Terry sighed. "I don't know what to do. It's hard to leave when there's a war on—but I haven't been of much use so far."
"Well, you've kept your head better than I have," muttered Jake ruefully.
Terry laughed. "Your principles were right every time," he said, "and your heart's in the right place. You've just been trying a little too hard."
"But you don't want to come stay with us?"
"Well, I've been thinking, if Hogwarts doesn't reopen, I could stay in Chad with my mother for a year, do something obviously useful. Or maybe it's time for me to pursue some other sort of education. This is such an unbalanced curriculum. All this emphasis on science—well, you know what I mean, on spellwork and potions, and practically no humanities, so that wizards hardly seem to know what to do with their powers, other than the general principles of controlling yourself and doing no lasting harm."
"What are you thinking?" asked Jake suspiciously.
"Oxford has a course in Philosophy and Theology," said Terry. "I could do my A-levels pretty quickly, I think, if I chose something like English, General Studies, and Religious Studies. I've been reading on my own—"
"You want to cross over?" said Jake.
"It only takes four years to get a degree," pointed out Terry. "Three, if I just do theology. It might be a good antidote to Hogwarts."
"What are you going to do with a theology degree in the wizarding world?"
Terry shrugged. "Be a human being. Be a Christian. Be an alternative to Voldemort. Do some active kind of good that will catch people's imagination so that they don't get seduced—don't you ever think about it?" he asked. "About being a rabbi?"
Jake shook his head. "I have every intention of living my life as an observant Jew, but I don't need to be a rabbi to do that." He paused. "Actually, I'm planning to be an Emotional Management Healer."
"I thought about that," said Terry. "But it seems kind of pointless without the Christian perspective, or at least some systematic ethical perspective—"
"I'm not planning to do it without a systematic ethical perspective," asserted Jake. "I'll be using my knowledge. All my knowledge, believe me."
"St. Mungo's isn't going to like that," warned Terry.
"So I'll start my own practice," said Jake. "I'll get the training at St. Mungo's, get it over with, and strike out on my own. I think I can make Jewishly-informed Emotional Management Healing attractive to a secular wizarding clientele—"
"What?" said Jake.
"You're not going to have an easy life."
"No," said Jake, "neither are you. Whichever side you're on. But you ought to stay in the wizarding world, you know. There aren't going to be any Christians here until someone sets an example. And there aren't going to be any wizarding charities until someone starts one. There are people like your parents who can go heal Muggles in Africa, but they can't do anything in the wizarding world. You can. It's a small enough community that one person, or a few people, can make a difference—"
Terry sighed. "Following that reasoning, I shouldn't even go to Chad for the summer. Not while there's a war on."
"You've got your Apparition license now, right?" asked Jake. "I'll send you an owl if anything happens. Or Anthony will."
"I don't think I can apparate all the way from Chad to England," objected Terry. "It's trickier than it looks."
"Well, break it into four or five stages and do it that way. You know, Chad to Morocco, Morocco to Spain, Spain to Holland, Holland to England. You could do that, right?"
"Right," muttered Terry.
Jake walked to the window and looked out. The crowd that attended the funeral had not yet dispersed, and they could hear the muffled hubbub through the open casements.
"It matters," he said. "Terry, it really matters what you do. You know, you changed my entire image of what a Christian was? You personally. The handful of serious Christians I'd met before spouted cant all the time, and when they found out I was Jewish, they were either incredibly patronizing or they tried to convert me. You're not like that at all. You could make Christianity attractive to all the lapsed Christians in the wizarding world. You're real."
Terry smiled wryly.
"Spend the summer studying the structure of your parents' mission," advised Jake. "Figure out what works. Then use the notes to plan the charity you're going to start in the wizarding world. That's where you're going, right? God made you magic for a reason. Exercise your free will, but don't try to buck fate too much."
Terry stood up. "You ought to see something of Claire," he said abruptly. "This summer. You should try to see something of Claire."
Jake whirled around to face Terry and stood stock still. His gaze was expressive.
"I think she's made her choice," said Terry quietly. "Just—don't waste it, okay?"
Jake grimaced. "I still don't think it's going to work," he murmured.
"I do," said Terry. "Give her a chance. And if she tells you that she's willing to live as a Jew—"
"What?!" exclaimed Jake.
"Just give her a chance," said Terry, closing his trunk. "Just give it a chance."
Once, when he and Eliza were flying solo to Ndjamena to join their parents, who had preceded them to Chad, Terry fell into conversation with two young Mormon missionaries. Blonde, fresh-faced, very American, very young, they spoke of their mission with infectious enthusiasm. They had a startlingly good understanding of Africa in some respects and a startlingly poor knowledge of the continent in other respects. But, Terry thought, listening to them, it didn't really matter. They had such a perfect knowledge of themselves, such inner groundedness, that they would subsist happily anywhere, would adjust to any conditions, no matter how poorly they understood them. They would float above the clouds.
Dad met them at the airport in Ndjamena and, when the two young missionaries were safely out of earshot, remarked ruefully that Mormons were barely Christians in his book, but Terry still felt a faint kinship. Aboard the rickety prop plane that carried them south, he gazed out at the thin bright air and thought about the hours and days of his life he'd spent on trains and airplanes, season after season, year after year, from six to seventeen. Back and forth. Nottingham. London. Hogwarts. Chad. Dumbledore was right. Not many wizards grow up this way. Not many Muggles, either.
In some ways, it's a blessing, fitting in nowhere. It gives one perspective.
In some ways, it's a blessing, not being loved. It gives one a strange sort of freedom. A bitter but exhilarating freedom.
For now, he's flying solo.
Author note: Many thanks to those who encouraged me to write this story. It was originally intended to be a one-shot of perhaps 3000-4000 words, but it grew and grew as I reflected on the manifold problems of living in the wizarding world, either as a Christian or as a Jew. There are, I know, still many loose ends, as well as vast topics (such as the state of Israel) that I never even raised. I hope some other fanfic writers will take on the challenge of exploring the wizarding world from a religious perspective!