iMy first thought upon reaching the top of our house was that it had been much easier than I expected. I figured that this was because I was in much greater shape than many of my friends and family members, and they had always told me how difficult accomplishing such a task could be.
They were not with me to watch as I climbed to the top of the house. Everyone else was in their house, parents making sure their children were changed and ready for bed, the children begging to stay up just a little longer to play games with their siblings. I should have been inside with them. Instead, I chose to stay outside after the other children had left, and then, completely on my own, I decided to try something I never had before, just for the thrill it would bring.
I paused briefly to think about what I was really about to do. It was not a completely new concept to me; I had climbed many trees before in the past few years. And even though I sometimes got hurt doing that, I quickly decided that this was worth the risk.
The journey to the roof was quick and fairy easy. I tried not to think about how strong the house may or may not have been then, for I had achieved something no one else around me had. I definitely deserved a chance to enjoy the moment.
There wasn't much to do once I reached the top, actually, other than make myself comfortable and relax. I soon realized, though, that it was not a great place to just lie down and let my mind wander; the fact that the roof was dirty and uncomfortable did not bother me, but I found myself constantly changing positions to keep from slipping off of it.
I finally settled on a position. I lay down on my back toward one end of the roof and held on to the end to keep myself in one place. It took several minutes to finally become comfortable, but when I did, I calmed down quite a bit. I figured that this was my reward, and I could do or think about whatever I wanted to.
I shifted my gaze upward from the side of the house. I noticed that the sky was darker and clearer than I was used to seeing it. It was later than I had originally thought, meaning that I had already spent too long outside. I could no longer hear my family; they must have fallen asleep.
That thought was only briefly the most important thing on my mind. It lingered in the back of my mind for a while, but I eventually forgot about it altogether. It was rare that I was out of the house after sunset. I had definitely never seen such a beautiful night. /i
I knew that the right thing to do at that moment would be to pray. That's what my family would have told me to do. I considered kneeling, folding my hands, closing my eyes in the empty room, the way I had so many times before. But what would I pray for? It would be foolish to ask for forgiveness for my sins; I knew that I was going to continue committing them anyway. I could ask for stronger faith, to not lose sight of who I am during the exciting and dangerous journey I had just started. I quickly dismissed that idea; I didn't doubt that there was someone who would hear my prayers. I just knew that no matter what, I was going to get hurt.
It was definitely not the first time I had considered this. On several occasions I had even started a prayer, but that never lasted long, because I always stumbled upon my silent words.
I came to the conclusion that I would just have to accept how my life would be from then on. It would not be simple anymore, but I would have answers, and that was what I had always wanted. So I decided that I needed to be working towards those answers, not dwelling on what others would say about them. Otherwise, I would never make any progress.
I finally moved from the one place where I had spent nearly all day, sometimes standing, sometimes kneeling, sometimes sitting in my unsteady, uncomfortable chair. I walked the short distance to a table that sat on the other side of the room. Sitting upon it were piles of books, many of which I had read as a child.
I picked up a book at the top of one of the piles and began reading it. Just minutes later, I put if back where I had found it and began reading another one. I did this several more times, each with the same result.
I should have realized sooner that the books would be of little use to me. They were decent books; at least, I had enjoyed some of them and felt that they were informative at the time I had read them. However, many of them were terribly out of date, even the ones I had read just a few years earlier.
Of course, these were the books I was expected to be using to teach my future students. It was possible that many of them would never realize on their own that the information in the books was, for the most part, false. The idea of reading even those books was exciting, for it was unlike any book they had ever read before.
I found the empty trunk that had held my books on the journey to the school and packed it again. It was heavy and difficult to carry as I left the castle and Apparated to Diagon Alley, but I had to do it. Had anyone asked, I would have said that I needed to buy supplies in preparation for the upcoming school year, which was true. However, I also needed to take the books out of my sight, my possession, my plans. I couldn't give myself a chance to turn back, a chance to realize just what I was about to do.
i I didn't realize just what I was missing until I saw it for the first time. It was the most dark, clear, stunning sky, dotted with bright stars. I had learned about the stars in school, and even recognized a few of the constellations. But the priests taught us little about astronomy.
I thought of the students that sometimes questioned the teachers in school. They eventually had to acknowledge that everyone knew that scholars were making many new discoveries about stars and planets, and instead of denying that that was happening, told us that it was happening, but that the scholars were wrong.
Had those students had a chance to see the night sky before? I wondered. I pondered this for a few minutes, but was interrupted before reaching a conclusion. My mother's shrill cry pierced the silence, and suddenly the night sky became the last thing on my mind again. I slid down the roof and my clothes became dirty when I fell onto the ground.
My mother firmly gripped my wrist and pulled me towards the house. I knew that I should have just remained silent, that my punishment would only be worse if I said anything. But I had to say something about what I had just experienced.
"Mum…" I hesitated as a first spoke. My voice was soft and nervous, and I wasn't even sure that she had heard me.
She turned around sharply, clearly impatient. I felt embarrassed then, and realized that I had picked the worst possible time to tell her what I wanted to. She was looking at me strangely, though, waiting for me to speak, so it was too late to change my mind.
"Have you ever seen the night sky before? I hadn't until tonight, and I think that it is truly amazing."
Without saying a word, she turned around again and continued to pull me towards our house. Still, I didn't want to stop, I couldn't give up.
"It's really fascinating, in my opinion. The sky is so big, and there's so much that we haven't learned about it yet."
Her grip on my wrist became more painful and she began dragging me even faster to my bedroom.
She only spoke to me to tell me to sleep and not leave my room for the rest of the night. I didn't fall asleep for hours, though. I could not get the images of the starry sky out of my mind. I could not even begin to comprehend how vast it was, and all the possibilities both baffled and excited me./i
I carefully reviewed the list of what I would need to purchase in my head many times, even though I had memorized the few items I would need very quickly. And once I reached the store I wanted to go to buy my supplies, I decided that I would return later. I kept walking until I reached a popular bookstore.
As always, the store was crowded and the sound was deafening, mostly because of the large number of future students accompanied by their parents. I didn't recognize anybody, but suddenly realized that I would most likely be teaching some of them in just a few short weeks.
I didn't even attempt to focus on one family or one conversation; that would have been impossible. Those things didn't even interest me. What I really wanted to know was what books they were purchasing. I did not know what books the students had been instructed to buy, even for my classes. Were they new, with accurate, updated information, or were they no different than the ones I was about to sell?
I lifted the trunk onto the table at the back of the store and opened it. The man who owned the store stood up slowly and carefully to look at the books briefly, then sat and looked up at me, waiting for me to begin speaking.
It had been a long time since I last saw the man, but I remembered him instantly. He had hardly changed; he wore the same simple, worn clothes, the same scratched glasses. The shop didn't seem as well-kept as it had been when I was a student, but the same furniture was still in the same places it had been. He said nothing to me though; he probably didn't remember me. I wasn't necessarily surprised; after all, I had only visited that shop several times, and my last visit was several years before. I suppose I just remembered my visits there differently than most, especially when compared to someone who spent every day there.
"I was wondering if you'd be interested in buying these books," I finally said, long after his mind and gaze had started wandering. He jolted when I spoke and then turned to look at me again.
Without saying a word, he peered over the trunk again and began searching the books. He began nodding slowly, and then several minutes later, opened a small box to his side.
He pulled out several coins and then handed them to me. My eyes widened when I realized just how much he was offering me for the books. Just as I was about to take the money another thought occurred to me, and it was a much less pleasant thought.
"That's a wonderful offer, but I think there's been a mistake," I said slowly, hoping I wouldn't offend him. "These books are old, outdated; they can't possibly be worth so much."
The man shook his head. "These are wonderful books and you have taken very good care of them. Why shouldn't you be paid well for them?"
It didn't take me long to realize that the man knew what he was doing when he offered the large sum of money. He, like many of the students I went to school with and the students I would soon be teaching, had been raised with few books. They saw nothing wrong with my old ones.
Without another word, I took the coins and put them in the pocket in my robe. I focused my gaze on the ground as I left the store, planning which stores I would go to next and what I would buy at each one. I was too distracted to notice those around me, and didn't realize that the way I was acting could hurt me or others until it was too late.
A man swore and quickly dropped several large books that narrowly missed my feet. I hurriedly bent down to pick them up, not even looking at the man until I handed the books to him.
It didn't take me long to remember who he was. My school had been small enough that by graduation, the students knew everybody in their class very well. And while the memory of some students was fading—the memory of the ones I rarely spoke to, considered neither friends nor enemies—I remembered William very well.
I muttered a quick apology and then began walking towards the door, hoping that he would do the same. He didn't. He extended his hand, smiled and said, "It's nice to see you again, Edward." I knew that it wasn't genuine though.
iMy heart was still pounding when my father entered the house. I turned around from the dining table to face him, but not before hiding the letter I had received under a book.
He didn't even acknowledge the presence of my younger siblings, who were playing on the ground nearby. They stared at him with confused expressions as he walked by them.
His expression was cold, even angry, but I was not surprised by this. I was fairly sure of what he wanted to say to me. He sat down at the worn chair across from me and folded his hands.
"Your mother told me about what happened last night," he said, briefly, bluntly. After a few seconds I realized that he didn't plan to say more, so I spoke.
"I'm sorry." I hadn't thought about the words before I said them. I just knew that it was what was expected of me.
My father closed his eyes and shook his head. "We still need to discuss this."
I remained perfectly still during his lecture, not wanting to make him more angry than he already was. I didn't want him to raise his voice. It was deep and strong, and I couldn't help but feel frightened by it sometimes.
I wasn't paying as careful attention as I knew I should be, though. I just watched him and his constantly changing expressions, ranging from angry to even sympathetic by the end, to my surprise. When I saw that he had stopped talking, probably waiting for me to apologize again and admit that what I had done was wrong, I pulled the letter out from under the book and handed it to him.
I began speaking slowly, making sure I was choosing the correct words. I didn't want him to get the wrong ideas about the school before I even had a chance to ask to attend. Or maybe they would be the right ideas; I hardly knew what to think of this event myself. I just knew that, whatever it was, it was fascinating.
Within seconds, he declared, "You won't attend this school. You will go to St. Joseph's next year, just as you always have."
I opened my mouth to speak, and then quickly closed it. I knew that I couldn't convince him to let me go to the school. He would tell me that witchcraft is a sin, and I wouldn't be able to argue that because I knew it was true./i
I shook William's hand quickly. "It's nice to see you too," I began, with the same false smile that he was wearing, "but I really—"
He wouldn't let me finish, though. "I'm sure you can afford to spend a few minutes visiting. Now sit down." He led me to an empty table in the corner of the room, and instructed me to sit.
I felt like a child again, obeying his commands so absently because I didn't know what else to do. But by then I was curious. Why did he want to talk to me? What was he going to say and do? Why was he suddenly trying to act respectfully towards me, when he had been anything but during our years at school?
He didn't waste any time. As soon as we were both seated, he began speaking. "How have you been since we graduated?"
"Alright, I suppose. I'm going to be teaching at Hogwarts this upcoming year."
"Astronomy, I'm assuming?"
"Yes." I wasn't surprised that he had correctly guessed this. It was no secret that Astronomy had been my favorite subject at Hogwarts. It was the first time I truly had a chance to learn about such things.
I was, however, surprised, that he was nodding. He was one of the many students who had never approved of my great interest in the subject.
What I did next was foolish, impulsive. Once again, I felt childish. On an impulse, I asked, "Have you heard about Galileo Galilei?" Most people I knew had at least heard stories about him, whether or not they agreed with what he said. Our school had even mentioned him a few times, even if it was just to explain that what he was proposing was wrong. But I needed a way to begin the conversation.
"Yes, I have. The priests at St. Joseph's would talk about him sometimes. They didn't like him too much, though. Do you remember those classes? They didn't appreciate it when students disagreed with them.
"I quickly learned to not question the priests. The punishments weren't worth it, regardless of the subject." I laughed a bit; I wasn't so nervous anymore. "But now I want to teach what he believed, not what our school believed." Saying that to him wasn't as hard as I had thought it would be.
Nothing he did then showed whether or not he approved or disapproved. He simply asked, "What does your family think about it?"
"They don't know about it yet. I didn't even think about that; I've been spending most of my time deciding what to teach."
"Have you made up your mind yet?"
"I just sold all of my old books. So, in a way, yes, I have."
Again, he did nothing to show whether or not he approved of what I was doing. However, a few minutes later, he said, "I'm thinking about applying for a job at St. Mungo's. I've always been interested in medicine."
I was surprised to hear this. He had made it clear at school that he was going to become a priest, just like his father and grandfather. I asked him why he had changed his mind, trying not to show my shock.
"I was in training to become a priest until about six months ago. It just wasn't right for me; I wasn't happy there."
I wanted to ask him more questions, but couldn't bring myself to do so. There was a brief, awkward pause in the conversation because of this.
Seconds later, though, as if he could read my mind, he said, "I had spent so many years at St. Joseph's, with the same students, the same priests, year after year. I spent time in the same classrooms, studying the same subjects in the same way. I didn't realize that there were so many other ways of approaching problems. I just assumed that everyone else lived the same way my family does."
I was listening carefully, interested in what he was saying, but he eventually stopped. "I'm sorry about this. I shouldn't be telling you so much."
I shook my head. "Don't apologize. I think that your story is very interesting."
He looked down, looking nervous, embarrassed even. I had never seen him act that way at school. "I'll stop now. But I want you to know that I think you should teach what you know is correct. I support you decision to do so."
He stood up, shook my hand again, and left the store. Minutes later, I did the same.
I couldn't stop thinking about what he had said as I shopped in other stores that day. I had no choice but to buy new books to use in my classroom, and it would be wasteful to buy the same books I had just sold. I had to trust William, the person I trusted least in school. I had to learn to trust God again, although both William and I had started to lose our faith in Him. But most of all, I had to trust myself, the way Galileo had to when he risked everything.
I knew that the right thing to do would be to pray, so that's just what I did. I dropped to my knees in the darkening room. I asked for strength and courage for the next day, the day when I would meet my students for the first time, teach for the first time. I hoped that my students and the other teachers would approve of what I was teaching, of the books in my room and the man who wrote them. I hoped that he was proud of me, too.
I said that I was grateful that my family eventually changed their mind after talking to a friend and let me attend Hogwarts, because there was so much I wouldn't know if I hadn't been able to.
After a long day's work, my room was finally cleaned and prepared. I stood up and walked over to the new telescope standing by the window. Looking through it, I had the most amazing view of various stars and planets. As I studied these stars, I finished my prayer by thanking God that I could finally see clearly.