Have you ever been tortured?
And when I say tortured, I don’t mean you had to spend an afternoon cleaning out your great-grandmother's attic, or that you got your broom taken away for the whole summer holiday. No, I mean real torture, the kind that makes your limbs seize up, and your vision go blurred as pain digs into your very bones and the sound of your screams rents the air.
And if you were tortured, was it in a classroom? A classroom full of other kids just as scared as you, with their heads bent in shame for not stopping it, but secretly (guiltily) thanking every deity they can think of that it wasn’t them this time.
Were you tortured in place they told you would be safe? That it would be home, only no one told you it would be a trap until it was too late, and the jaws had closed around you, digging in and taking their pound of flesh, and so much more than that.
Do you know what it’s like to creep through the corridors you once skipped through, flinching at ever shadow you see because anything could be a threat now? Learning to walk silently because it’s not the prefects that’ll catch you now, and detention has never sounded so ominously in your ears.
Have you ever fought in the shadows because it was too dangerous to let them see your faces? After all they knew where you slept, and if they knew who you were they could find you. Figuring out silent spells far too early for fear they’ll recognize your voice.
Have you ever joined an army where the oldest was seventeen, and the youngest eleven? Where every person you faced knew so much more than you, and the battles seemed hopeless, but you had to keep fighting, scratching your symbols of resistance on the undersides of table, and whispering of revolution in undertones weaving though the halls.
Have you ever learned spells that made your hands shake? The weight of the them heavy and bitter in your mouth, but it’s better to cast them because the alternative is so much worse. And if you ever thought about giving them a taste of your own medicine, you did so quietly, because even if you were all thinking the same thing, you can’t say it, you have to be better than them. (What else have you got left?)
Have you ever seen someone you might have called friend, or housemate standing on the opposite side of the battlefield? Because they want to survive just as you do, and they thought this way had better odds. And it may have once been an us vs them, standing strong against the invaders, but the lines are so more blurred now. But raise your weapon (it’s not just a wand anymore) and let the curses fly because this is war, and you can’t afford to care about the faces you once knew.
Have you ever lived like rats in the walls? Hiding because you went too far, acted too bold, and they’re out for blood now. Hunting you down, and if they catch you this time they won’t only torture you (and when did torture become only). No, this time there’ll be no return to the dorm room to shake and scream through the night, you’ll just disappear. We never knew where they went.
Have you ever wanted to break? Only you couldn’t because you’re holding a first year just treated for her torture related injuries, and you have to lie to her that it’ll all be alright, even though you know that if the same thing doesn’t happen tomorrow it’ll be the day after that.
Do you know what any of that’s like?
Because I do.
You say we won. That the war’s over. And you look at us and see children, and you send us back to schoolbooks and homework, telling us that we’re safe now. But how could we ever be safe in these halls that stink of memories.
There, that classroom where you watched your best friend scream one day, with them returning the favor the next. That wall where you scrawled graffiti and go caught, leaving you with some of the scars on your back. And this niche where you hid after you stole potions from the infirmary because a third year got on the wrong end of a wand, and you don’t have enough to treat the burns.
You think that we’re nothing but children. Children that you can comfort and coddle, kiss all the tears away, and reassure with nothing but the words that we’ve won.
But we’re soldiers, and we haven’t won. We won’t have won until no one wakes up screaming anymore. Until kids can’t quite recall what the Cruciatus feels like. Until there are no more eleven year olds that know more curses than charms.
You may have seen two wars, but you never lived one like we did, tasting the blood of it in your mouth, feeling the dust of it on your skin, and weight of it in your bones. Because when you were young there were still sanctuaries and places to run to, while we only had walls that we could get our backs up to and hope for a reprieve.
So stop making empty promises, stop acting like we’re still innocent, stop pretending that what we went through was easy, stop demeaning our fight, stop treating us like we’re the same kids you once knew, because that isn't us anymore.
You won your war, now you need to learn to respect ours.
Sincerely the Students (Soldiers) of Hogwarts