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The Mistake

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It’s a misconception among Muggles introduced to the wizarding world that wizards don’t believe in God. An odd one, indeed, but then it’s a sad fact that the Muggle church seems to think that wizardry is a form of devilry.

At St Kentigern’s Priory, we indulged in no such dividing of the world. We are all children under God, after all, and my brothers and I swore to help where we could. And if I had accepted the narrow thinking so common to humankind, I might never have met the people I called my brothers: Brother Magnus, the man we looked to as our leader, who was married to a Muggle as a young man; Brother Parvus, scorned at home after it was determined he was born without magic but respected at the priory for his devotion; Brother Albert, born to Muggles but a master at the healing arts; and many others besides.

Some advised against such liberality, saying we should not accept Muggleborns in our order, or that we should not offer hospitality to Muggles. Too dangerous, they said, or else they called such persons “unworthy.”

I believe that it is the duty of monks to offer hospitality to all who come to their door, but it is true that not all men follow the right path.


* * *

It was long after compline, but the silence of the night was broken by yelling. Even after the work of scribing during the day, I had never been a heavy sleeper, and I woke with a start, heart pounding, wondering whether I imagined the noise.

The yelling started anew, and though the words were unclear, I knew there were strangers in our house. I knew my brothers’ voices by heart, and this voice was not one of theirs.

Suddenly fearful, I followed the noise as fast as my feet would take me. The sight that met my eyes shocked me. Brother Magnus stood across from a man in Muggle clothing, a man I recognized as having received our hospitality before. But what truly horrified me was that this man clutched a fistful of the fabric of Magnus’ habit in one hand while he held a knife to his throat with the other.

“I ought to kill you now,” the man said. “We know what you are here. Monks, indeed. What impudence!” He spat into Magnus’ face. “I’ll call my men and they’ll deal with this house of the devil.”

Magnus spoke now, cool despite the knife at his throat. “If you say that you serve God, then we are brothers in faith. If you truly serve God, then put down the knife, do not call your killers. Did not the Commandments Moses brought down from Mount Sinai tell us that we must not kill?”

“Why shouldn’t I kill servants of the devil? I –“ He suddenly turned his head and stared at me, where I stood transfixed with fear. “Well, I think now would be a good time to call my men. Yours are already starting to wake.” He pushed Magnus away from him and stormed outside.

“What do we do?” I asked Magnus, shaking.

“Our house is built of sturdy stone walls, our doors are thick and well-hinged, and we have food aplenty stored. All we must do is close the priory up, board the windows, and wait. Our impulsive friend has forgotten that.” Magnus strode quickly down the hall, rousing my brothers and setting them to work. I helped secure slats of wood over the windows in the refectory. When we were nearly finished, we heard a shout of rage issuing from many mouths. Evidently the Muggles had discovered their folly.


* * *

And so the siege began.

The first thing the Muggles tried was battering down the door. When the thick oak resisted their efforts, they retreated for a while, seemingly to think.

Their next attempt at entry was through the selfsame windows I helped to board up. They broke through, but we held them off, for they could only come one at a time through the single window they managed to clear of boards. I feared I would have to pray to God for forgiveness for raising a hand against another man, even in self-defense. But we were all human here at the priory, after all. We all feared death, even though we knew that when we died we would be delivered into God’s hands.

After their thwarted attack at the refectory windows, all went silent. We wondered whether our attackers had gone, or whether they were simply waiting before attacking again. Three days passed. On the fourth day, Brother Magnus stood before us in the refectory and said, “Brothers, the garden lacks attention; so do the bees. It is not seemly to cower in the priory like mice who have glimpsed a cat and fear it will come near again. Let us place our faith in God, and hope He delivers us from the hatred of hypocrites.”

“Amen,” we murmured fervently.

Several of our men went out to tend the gardens; only one returned, and we realized our mistake. On the survivor’s heels came a group of the attacking Muggles, and they gained on him as he ran up the path to the open door. The brothers at the door dithered about whether to shut the door and leave Brother Jeremy to his fate or keep it open and possibly let our attackers into the priory. They hesitated a moment too long, and Brother Jeremy was in – and so were the attackers. Jeremy was dead a moment later, as were one of the brothers at the door. The rest of us came running to defend the priory, but many of us fell to the rough weapons of the Muggles as they dodged our spells. We were peaceable folk, and had lost the advantage of being able to shut the Muggles out. We were lambs at the slaughter, even though we fought back the best we could.

I found myself face to face with a Muggle. I attempted to Stun him, but he avoided it and swung his scythe at me. I ducked, not a second too soon. Another small battle caught my eye, distracting me: one of the Muggles went for Brother Magnus. Brother Parvus tried to stop him, and fell to the ground, dead. I started towards them, forgetting my Muggle, uttering a spell that I prayed would hit the Muggle before he got to Brother Magnus…


* * *

Where was I? was my first thought.

It looked strangely familiar. After a moment I realized why: it was a room at Hogwarts, the office belonging to my History of Magic teacher, an owlish old man with wispy hair and wide, round eyes. From the first time he asked me to his office to talk, I admired the devout old man. It was during our talks that I realized that I wanted to dedicate my life to God.

But why in heaven’s name was I in his office of all places? I was needed back home: Magnus was in danger! I ran to the door and went to open it when a familiar voice stopped me.

“Hello, Hugh.”

It was that selfsame old teacher I had been remembering, Professor Grey, who was long dead. I crossed myself nervously. What was this?

“Do not be afraid. I know I am dead; so are you.”

I remembered the danger at the priory again abruptly. “I can’t leave them!” I cried out, frantic. More brothers were probably dying at the priory; they needed all the help they could get.

“You have left them already,” Professor Grey said calmly.

“I haven’t – I can’t – please, I must go back!”

“Do you understand the choice before you? If you go back, you forsake the kingdom of God forevermore.”

“I cannot leave my brothers to be slaughtered! Send me back at once!” His words hardly registered in my mind. I turned on my heel, intending to Apparate back home.

As the room dissolved around me, I heard Professor Grey say sadly, “You have always thought with your heart. Too much so, perhaps…”


* * *

I did not understand what I had done until it was too late. I had made the most foolish decision of my life, and I will pay for it for all eternity.

What pained me even more was that it was for nothing. I gave up my chance at heaven to help my brothers, and their empty bodies lay around me. I mourned for them and for myself. For a long time I hid in the priory as my brothers rotted.

But eventually, one must live again, even if one is living the half-life all ghosts must lead. For I am a ghost, one of the cursed folk who hadn’t the courage to go forward and must remain suspended between life and death for all eternity.

I have said goodbye to my brothers in my heart, and I am leaving the priory behind to its peaceful rest. Eventually the stones will crumble and the grass will cover its remains. After a while, nothing will remain to show what happened there.

But I remain. I don’t know where I will go, but I know I shall carry the story of the deaths of the inhabitants of St. Kentingern’s Priory with me. I shall proclaim their wrongs to the world.

I shall make sure my brothers are never forgotten.