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FIC: " Professor C. Binns: A Personal History" for odogoddess

Recipient: [personal profile] psyfic
Author: ???
Title: Professor C. Binns: A Personal History
Rating: PG
Pairings: Cuthbert Binns/Walburga Black, Walburga Black/Orion Black
Word Count: ~13,300
Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *Strong language (one use), one moment of domestic violence*
Summary:Transcribed from back cover of book:

Professor Cuthbert Binns (living: 1865-1963, haunting: 1963- ) is the leading Magical Historian of his day. He has published widely on topics ranging from, 'The origins of magic in native rock art,' to 'Wizard-Muggle relations through the ages', and was awarded an Order of Merlin (second class) in 1936, when his seminal work, 'A History of the magical world in 100,000 pages' became the best-selling Historical text on record.

This volume, however, is - for the first time - autobiographical in nature. It is thus somewhat experimental in nature, but serves to remind both the author and the reader that we each build the fabric of History, in our own ways, however small.

"Being in love with a person is more difficult than being in love with a book. You can carry a book with you wherever you go, but a person moves around on their own, and one is never sure where they are or where one will see them, next. Also, books get older in a predictable way: if you take good care of them they don't seem very different at all - aside from the odd scratch on the cover or a looseness to the spine - but people can change their thoughts and feelings and opinions, such that what was once written there disappears altogether and is replaced by information of an entirely different sort.

That is why people are so difficult."


Author: C. Binns.
Dictation: Gluey the House elf.
Production: A.P.W.B. Dumbledore, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,
Published, 1964; Revised, 1991.


Author's Notes: Cuthbert, Walburga and Orion belong, of course, to JKR. This tale is also somewhat inspired by 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' by Mark Haddon.

Many thanks to [personal profile] bethbethbeth for once again running this marvellous fest, and to [personal profile] psyfic - whose request included 'friendship' and 'a meeting of the minds' - for giving me the freedom to write this.





Preface


I have always preferred facts to people. Nice, solid, reliable facts; not slippery, not changeable. Facts are full of truth, and words and numbers. These are some of my favourite things.

People - their words, but more especially not their words - have always seemed a puzzle. That, at least in part, is what this story is all about.

I shall attempt to write the whole thing down as clearly as possible, before it escapes me. For I am told by others, that now, for ones such as us, the past can blend together. That thought terrifies me. -So, I would like to have a clear record of it all, before I can no longer recall it. And her.

History is important. It is also interesting, and comforting. I like the pattern of dates and times and people and places - which make far more sense when time allows you to step away and view them from afar, like using a telescope to see a whole city from the sea.

Alternatively, it is like an ant colony. Each individual ant has no idea of the pattern it helps to make from its perspective on the ground, but the human being above can see the grand organisation of castellations and towers and vaults and chambers, and can appreciate them. He, then, is the Historian.

I am a Historian. Or, at least, I try to be. Sometimes I think I might just be an enthusiast. But, whatever it is I am, I know I have a duty to History. We, just like the ants, all play a part in shaping the world as it next will be, and that it why I tell myself I must write all this down.

Mainly though, it is so I will never forget Walburga.



Chapter 1


I will start at the beginning, because all good History is told in chronological order; I will start when I was a child.

By way of background I shall say where and when I was raised. I was born in London on 4th January, 1865, to parents Michaela and Humphrey Binns. My Mother died in the process of giving birth to my younger sibling, when I was one year of age, so my recollections of her are effectively nil. My father was, I believe, a kind man, though our relationship was never comfortable. I understand that he was prized among his friends for being highly 'amusing' and telling excellent 'jokes'.

I have never liked 'jokes', because they seem to be just another category of lies. He never liked facts, because he was more interested in people and all of the illogical things they do and say. Therefore, we had little to discuss.

He was, however, responsible for providing physically for me and my siblings, and he fulfilled this duty admirably. We lived in a large townhouse in a green square, with neat outdoor railings and a black, shiny front door. I liked the house; it was symmetrical.

He worked in the family profession, an idea that was inherited from his own father, and generations of Binns before him. I have never been quite sure what the family profession was, because it did not seem to make anything. It just involved people, talking to one another for hours and hours about things which may or may not be the truth. 'If something is so equivocal, why bother talking about it at all?' so I thought. There are plenty of things to talk about which are already known to be true; one would never run out. It was called the 'Wizengamot'.

It was not just my Father with whom I seemed to have little to discuss. My younger sisters laughed and ran and made lots of noise, and collected things in bright, shiny colours; I didn't like that at all, and tended to avoid them. The nannies confused me, because they spoke with strange accents from other parts of London, and asked lots of silly questions - though I did do my best to be a good, dutiful child.

I recall one occasion when my two siblings and I were each sitting in the summer room with our respective nurses. There was one nanny per child; that made three of each in total, giving six - a number which divides well in a number of ways - and a pleasing, clear ratio of one to one.

My siblings were hearing their respective carers read aloud, and I listened a little, marvelling at the extraordinary number of untruths that were being said - for people with such fanciful names surely do not exist, animals do not talk, and the world is not made up of such bright, gaudy colours.

Perhaps noticing that I was looking in the direction of the others (for I have since learned that people sometimes guess what is in another's thoughts by following their gaze, however inaccurate a mechanism that is likely to be), my nurse said, "Very well, Cuthbert, go to get a book."

I set out so to do - wishing to be obedient, even though I had no desire to hear her read - and, naturally, went for the most expedient option consistent with fulfilling her request: that is, the nearest book.

Imagine my horror, then, when a dissonant screeching (spanning a minor ninth and failing altogether to resolve) came from one of the other nannies, and she struck me, hard, across the legs. My name was called several times and I was banished from the summer room, and told to sit in a corner, alone.

I was upset, and also very confused. I had done only what was asked of me. No-one had stipulated any constraints as to the location from which the book should have been fetched. The hands of my sibling's nanny seemed as good a location as any - better, in fact, because it was the closest.

It was experiences such as this one that gave me, over time, the impression that the world seemed to be full of unwritten, unspoken rules to which I was not party. Needless to say, it was most distressing. At times, it still is.

With practice and study I have now learned a number of these rules by rote. There is no other way to learn such oddities, I find. Languages can be learned through logical extension: root of word, tense, gender; mathematics can be learned through application of logical principles, and History can be learned through rhythm and chronology and rises and falls - intricate patterns. People, however, have no patterns. That is one reason why they are so difficult.

I continued my childhood in a manner informed by such difficulties. I found that negative reactions became less frequent the less I talked and interacted with others, so that seemed the logical path. Indeed, it provided some much-needed relief, after those formative spates of being shouted at and struck for no reason I understood.

The single thing of most significance that happened to me before the age of eleven was that I found a book.

There, were, of course, many books in the library at home - but the ones I had previously been directed toward were those low to the ground and thought suitable for children, full of 'stories' and false people and impossible accounts. All lies. I hated them. Otherwise the library was ordinarily kept locked.

This book, however, had been left lying in the drawing room by my Father - presumably only seconds beforehand, or else the elves would already have tidied it away, using their magic to levitate to shelves that small wizard-children could not reach.

It was old and very thick and bound in plain, black leather. There were no brightly-coloured pictures that made my eyes hurt - just clean neat words on the cover in silver capital letters: A HISTORY OF MAGIC, FROM ANCIENT TIMES TO THE PRESENT DAY. EBENEEZER OGLEWOOD, 1856.

At first, I was put-off: that was clearly a lie, as any date in 1856 was most assuredly not the 'present day'. However, there was something about the pleasing solid cuboid of it, and its calming dark colour, which made me overcome my aversion. I opened the book at a central page, and began to read:


...1406 - Oglin, the Goblin Chief of Farbanks, declares a war on the Goblin Nation of Tresselwood.
1407 - Scuphard, Goblin chief of Tresselwood, responds with large magical force, culminating at the Battle of Wazentrough, in which Oglin ultimately falls.
1408 - Grimslaw the Younger, son of Oglin, seeks revenge upon Tresselwood and musters support from the Goblin Nations of Trinsalt and Ulnhard to attack Scuphard.
1409 - Scuphard falls, and is replaced by Thusselcunz the Elder.
1410 - Thusselcunz the Elder invades the homeland of Grimslaw and causes casualties among Trinsaltians and Ulnardites.
1411 - Puntkunf of Trinsalt seeks revenge upon Thusselcunz and invades Scuphard...



Flicking ahead through the pages - literally thousands of blessed, tissue-thin pages - I could see that the volume continued all in the same vein; exactly the same calming rhythm of dates and facts and names; on and on and on.

And they were such wonderful facts! It was almost as if all that was true and right in this confusing, hostile world - full of its double-meanings and hypocrisies and lies - was distilled into this splendid volume. Everything in this book could be depended upon, and it would be wonderful company without ever asking strange questions or reacting badly when one just tried to give an honest response. From that day on, I took the book with me everywhere, and I was barely seen in the house without it open at my side. I believe it fair to say that, for the first time in my life, I was in 'love'.

Over the years, I have looked at many different dictionary definitions of 'love'. For some - especially Muggles - it seems to have a supernatural element: that some great omniscient creator wishes only positive things for beings on Earth, and that wish is termed 'love'. That, I'm sure I barely need to say, is to me, utter nonsense.

There are other definitions, though, and they all seem to come down to the same thing: a deep and pervading liking for something. Liking something, that is, not just in the way that one likes toast, or the colour black, or silence - but liking something so strongly that life would seem sad and empty without it, and one thinks of it all the time, even when it isn't there.

I am certain, therefore, that the feeling I developed for that book was 'love'.

I read the whole thing in order, many, many times through. When I was lonely I would read it, and then I wasn't lonely any longer. I was accompanied by all of the people described in it - but, for once, they were explaining what they were doing and why, and it made sense - rather than just flashing about and saying nonsensical things and being confusing and aggressive when asked to explain. I realised that I would quite like people, if they could behave like they did in a History book.

When I was eleven years and nine months old, I started attending Hogwarts. I was sorted into Ravenclaw House, and was given a bed in a circular dormitory, which I liked because it was a symmetrical shape. I didn't like having to share a room with four other boys, but I stayed very quiet most of the time so they wouldn't bother me or get cross, and most of the time, they didn't. Therefore it was not so very bad.

I did like the lessons, though. I made detailed notes on everything the teachers said, and became quite good at Transfiguration and Charms by following the instructions properly. That made me pleased, especially when the teachers said I was doing well. Many of the teachers seemed better at saying what they meant than the people I had met before, so I liked talking to them more than most.

My favourite subjects were Ancient Runes - which was easy and logical - and History of Magic, in which I was top of the class. I already knew all of the answers to the tasks that we were set in lessons, so the teacher, Professor Cutbright, set me separate assignments to research things that were not in my book.

I was amazed at first, that there was History that was not in my beloved book, but when I was given a special pass to the Advanced History section of Hogwarts library, I was happy to find that, indeed, was the case. I spent hours and hours in the library. I was very happy there, and no-one seemed to mind.

When I passed my NEWTS with good grades in general, and a special commendation in History of Magic, I had to leave the school - supposedly for ever - and that made me quite unhappy. I was accustomed to it there; I liked the routine and the lessons, and especially the library. I went back to my Father's house, as I had during the school vacations, but, as the summer passed, I was not sure what it was that I should do next.


Chapter 2.i


This chapter will be shorter than it might otherwise have been, because the substance of it is mainly written elsewhere (see Bibliography). It starts, logically enough, at the point the previous chapter finished: I had to leave school, so returned to my Father's house.

At first, being unsure as to what it was that I should do, I did pretty much nothing; that seemed logically-consistent, after all. (I should note that I did, of course, do plenty of things: eating, washing, sleeping and occasionally going for a walk in the garden - but I have learned that people don't usually count those activities as doing 'something', even though they are clearly activities that one does. It's peculiar, but there it is.) .

When I had been at home for about three months, my Father said, "Cuthbert, I want to talk to you." We were standing in the library, with my younger sister in the corner, by the window.

I noted his request by saying, "Yes, Father," - because I had learned that people often desire a response to statements they make, even when there is nothing substantive to reply, so I wanted to do the right thing.

Then he did something strange: he went to leave the room and jerked his head and hand in my direction and toward the door. I didn't understand why he did that, so I stayed still and didn't say anything.

Then, my Father turned around again and said, "Sorry, I forgot." He didn't say what he had forgotten. Then he said, "Cuthbert, please come to my study with me, so we can talk in private."

I replied, "Yes, Father," and we went to his study.

When we arrived there, he said, "Please sit down," so I did. Then he said, "Cuthbert, I've been worrying about you. I care for you very much - even though we don't speak a great deal - so I thought that perhaps we should have a good talk now, before I'm gone."

"Where are you going?" I asked.

He exhaled slowly and noisily, which is called 'sighing'. At the time, I didn't know what it was for. Then he replied, "I meant that I'm not very well. The Mediwizards think I might die, son, and I want to make sure that you will be well, if I'm not here."

I adjusted my glasses, so I could see him clearly. I then noticed that his skin colour was slightly yellow, and that, does indeed suggest a serious malady of some kind.

He continued: "So, I wanted to make sure you're all set up with what you're going to do - see? You know that the house will always belong to you and your sisters, so you don't need to worry about where to live. And the elves will always be here to look after the cooking and cleaning and so on - but I was thinking more about getting you a purpose in life, son. What are you going to spend your time on, eh?"

I had been thinking about this myself, so was pretty clear as to the answer: I said, "I don't know."

He nodded, and his mouth turned down at the corners. "Yes, that's what I feared." He paused, and then rearranged his features somewhat, "But, perhaps we can work it out, eh?"

"Perhaps?" It was a confusing statement, so I parroted it.

"Right then. Now, you like History, don't you?"

"Yes, I do." That, thankfully, was an easy question.

"So perhaps you could do something with that."

It was an interesting idea, but I was puzzled. History was for learning and reading, not for 'doing'. "What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well..." He made a strange whistling sound through his teeth. "The Ministry always need cultural and background advisors, so... no, maybe not... Or perhaps Gringotts would appreciate someone who understood the subtleties of all the Goblin nations and could therefore deal with - oh, hang on, I don't think so. Or... Oh Merlin, what can you do if you just like having your nose in a book all day? You can... aha! Yes, son, you could write books!"

"Write books?" I asked. It seemed a funny suggestion. "But books have already been written - else they wouldn't be books."

He laughed. "Quite right, son, quite right - but someone has to write them before they are books - so that they can be books in the future. -And that person could be you!"

It was a fascinating idea. I found myself smiling. Also, I knew straight away how one would do it: it would be a case of finding lots of interesting facts from lots of different places and putting them together, like a jigsaw. One would gather up all of the funny-looking lines and shapes, and use them to make a big pattern. It would be wonderful.

My Father seemed to have guessed what I was thinking. "Excellent. Sounds good, eh? And, I tell you what, I've got a friend who does some publishing - I bet old Quillbright would be amenable, if I asked him nicely, and it's good enough - which I'm sure it would be! So, son, why don't you have a crack at writing something - not too ambitious at first, mind, just ease yourself into it gently - and then we'll see if we can get a print run going, eh? And, in time, I bet you'll become quite well-known at this History-writing lark. Could never do it myself, mind - haven't the patience - but I'll be jolly proud to see the family name in print and to know that it's my son who did the business."

That all came very quickly, so I took a moment to think about what it was he had said. I was still very happy about the idea, though, so I said, "Yes, I will write a book."

And that is exactly what I set out to do.

The first volume took longer than my Father had expected, so he was very sick by the time I was finished. He had told me not to be 'too ambitious', so I had obeyed that, and had set a title that was only ambitious enough: 'A History of the Magical World in 100,000 Pages.'. It was finished on the 4th of August 1885, published on the 21st of September 1885, and my Father died on the 23rd October 1885. Before he died, he held a copy of the book and said he was 'proud' of me. That made me pleased.

After my Father died, some things changed in the house. My elder sister said that she needed all of it, because she was going to live there with her husband and children, so I would have to move out. She also said that she had made arrangements for where I could go, but that I would have to change publisher from my Father's friend, Quillbright, to someone her husband knew, who worked in Canterbury. His name was Pursebank.

The whole idea was difficult, I said, because I was part-way through a new manuscript about the History of Goblin civilizations in the Far East, and Quillbright had the first half. She said that she would sort it out, and that I had to be gone in a week's time, so I should start to pack.

I had never understood other people, and when I questioned the things they told me, they usually got cross. My sister's suggestions didn't seem right, but then again, experience had taught me that what didn't seem right to me usually seemed perfectly fine to everyone else in the world - and I would be told to stop 'being so contrary' if I voiced my opinion, and they would shout. So, I didn't complain, and did as she said.

The flat in Canterbury was much smaller than the Binns family house, but the rooms were square and straight and quiet, and I was allowed to keep all of my books in the big publishers' library downstairs, where they would fit. I was quite happy there. Ezra Pursebank was a loud, squat man who didn't seem to know anything about books at all, but he didn't bother me very much. An elf would bring me food and clean the room, and when I needed to travel to do some research in a library, the journey would be organised by a secretary.

I only needed to speak to Pursebank occasionally, when I had finished something and it was ready to be published. He would take the pile of scrolls from me, and smile in a nasty way that exposed broken, yellow teeth. He was not symmetrical at all.

He would then say, "Thank you," in a voice that sounded a bit like faulty water pipes, and give me a few sickles from his pocket as a reward. That was nice, because it meant that I could go and buy ice-cream or chocolates, or something else that the elves didn't make for supper.

So thus it was that, between the ages of 18 and 81 (in hindsight the palindrome is pleasing), I devoted myself to the study and elucidation of History.

I have just written a thing there that I would frown upon in a scholarly text; I prefer to give each section of a time-line equal treatment in pages and depth, and the above paragraph certainly does not fulfil those criteria. However, on this occasion and for this purpose, I think it is reasonable. Very little of note happened in that period of my life outside of my many texts - with which, I hope any reader of this account will already be familiar.

That is not to downplay their significance, mind - indeed, I very much enjoyed every piece of research and writing I did - but I have learned that people would find a detailed account of my researching, writing and publishing each of my 306 volumes unpleasantly repetitive and 'tedious' if told all at once. Suffice to say, therefore, that the fruits of my labours are available in libraries, and the mechanics of their conceptions were exactly as described above - with the addendum that Pursebank died in 1923, to be replaced by his equally-illiterate assistant, Pennyswipe. It was only years later that I discovered that a lot of money had been earned from selling the books that I wrote. I have never found out where all of that money went, but I didn't get any of it.

Instead, life was quiet and routine. No-one disturbed me, and I had everything I needed to do my work, which was interesting. I was quite content.

This all changed, however, on the 16th of January, 1945, at 6:12pm. I heard a knock on the door of my flat (which was very surprising; in the 67 years I had lived there, there was an average of one knock on the door every 5 months - and excepting those visits which were expected, there had been a knock on the door only once in ever 2.3 years). I rose from my desk, my legs feeling rather stiff from a long day seated with quill in hand, and went to answer the door.

That was when I first met Walburga.



Chapter 2.ii


I answered the door to find a young female standing outside. I could tell she was young woman, because her face was not lined, but her head-to-body ratio made it clear that she was an adult. Later on, I learned that my suppositions were correct: Walburga was born on the 4th of May, 1925, so on that day, she had been nineteen years and nine and a half months of age.

From the moment I saw her, I liked her very, very much. She was the most symmetrical girl I had ever seen. There was almost perfect bi-colour contrast between the black of her hair and the white of her skin; pleasing and clear, quite unlike the muddy browns and yellows and pinks of most young women. Her shape was made up of straight lines, not complicated curves and rounds. It was nice to look at.

She said, "Good afternoon, sir. My name is Walburga Black. Am I correct in thinking that you are Mr. Cuthbert Binns, the Historian?"

"Yes, you are correct," I replied.

"Thank you," she said, "May I come in?"

I said, "Yes," and then added, "Would you like to sit down?" because I had learned that people like to be offered the chance to sit down.

She said, "Thank you," and did so. It was going quite well, thus far, I thought - even though I had no idea why she had come.

That state of affairs would usually make me nervous; I like to know why someone is talking to me before they begin. Walburga, however, was neat and quiet and so very symmetrical, and I found that I didn't mind too much after all. I was content just to watch and wait.

It also helped, of course, that she stated her business very quickly. "Mr. Binns," she said, "I have come today to solicit your advice on a historical matter, and to offer you a piece of well-paid work connected with this. May I continue, with details?"

It sounded very interesting, so I said, "Yes. Please do continue."

"Thank you," she said, and somehow I already felt appreciated.

Walburga was entirely clear with what she wanted. There were no peculiar turns of phrase ('If you would be so kind as to...' - That's complex. If I would be kind. Well, am I kind? Am I likely to be kind?; 'How would you feel about...' How can I know how I will feel until it has happened? One cannot imagine such things, not would one want to; 'if you have a spare three seconds...' three seconds have clearly already elapsed in the process of the question, therefore enquiring as to whether they were 'spare' to me is clearly pointless). -Everything she said was based in fact. She didn't make any 'jokes', and her face didn't keep changing its expression in the way that can make me dizzy. She just stayed perfectly still and her mouth curved upward very slightly at the corners. It was almost as if it was perfectly measured and balanced, and I liked that very much.

In making her request, she said the following: "One day - perhaps not so far from now - I shall be the senior member of my family, and thus responsible for upholding the honour of the pure and noble Black family line. As I am sure you are aware, there have been stirrings of late in Prussia, where Pureblood wizards have sought to claim their rightful place."

"I am aware, indeed," I said. In truth, such observations had been a subject of my study for the preceding two years; I had published a work fourteen months previous, in November 1943, contrasting previous ideological changes with the current continental climate. It was a most interesting set of patterns.

"Good," she said."I was sure that a wizard from a family line as old as the Binns would understand. It seems of prime importance that if and when the time will come in this land, we Pureblood wizards should be prepared to show our worth and take the lead. But, in order so do to, what we shall need is spotless proof of our superiority - and this brings me to my current difficulty with which I ask assistance."

At that point, Walburga unfurled a scroll she had been holding, and passed it to me. I studied the document carefully. Depicted thereon was a diagram of heredity - a 'family tree', as I believe they are fancifully called. It was clearly recently-drawn and displayed four generations, from 1845 to the present day. Indeed, a reader may be familiar with it, as I believe this fragment has been much re-produced in the present day.

"This is as much as I have been able to assemble," Walburga said. "There was a great attack of fiendfyre late last century, destroying most of our family documents. However -" her voice became a little louder and deeper; it was a nice sound. "-It is beyond doubt that the noble Black line extends at least eight centuries into the past. Owing to the hopeful future circumstances in which we will need definite proof of this, I would like to commission you, Mr. Binns, to produce a full Black family History. For this work, I offer the sum of three hundred Galleons, but stipulate that the undertaking remain a secret between the two of us. Do you accept?"

I listened very carefully to all she said, and found that her logic was sound and her request was reasonable. In fact, I determined that it would be an interesting historical challenge. "Yes, I accept," I said.

Walburga exhaled slightly and moved approximately four inches backward in the chair in which she was sitting. I learned much later that her reaction might have been 'relief', or perhaps 'accomplishment'.

We then discussed details and terms. Straight away, I had many pertinent questions: place of residence and occupations of those mentioned on the truncated diagram; any other related persons known or suspected, even if dates were not yet clear; meaning and History of the family arms (sable, a chevron argent, two stars in chief and a sword in base of the first - sloppily emblazoned, as it showed two hound supporters, but neither a helm nor mantling); and heritable physical features which would be of note in portraiture.

Walburga answered each of my questions succinctly and with insight. It was wonderful! I found that I enjoyed talking with her very much. Indeed, that was probably the first time in my life I had truly enjoyed talking with anyone.

At the end of that first meeting, we agreed to review progress on a weekly basis. Walburga was keen to see the project completed, but was also realistic about the amount of work that it would entail. She also mentioned commissioning an enchanted object to display the results, and the charms that would be necessary to give said object an aged appearance - but as that stage of the process would occur only after my commission was complete, I did not absorb the details.

True to my word, I did indeed spend a great deal of time and intellectual effort upon the Black family History. This involved a considerable amount of travel by Floo and apparation, both domestically and abroad, as well as many hours of close study with primary sources and records.

As could perhaps be gleaned from Walburga's striking appearance, one branch of the Black family had been members of the Russian wizarding aristocracy; I was gratified to have learned Cyrillic when I was forty-five, and thus I could easily interpret the relevant documents. The work took me to several foreign libraries, as well as the bowels of a number of Ministry records departments. Several parchments were faded - or possibly purposefully defaced - so I needed to employ a good deal of restorative and transcriptive magic to make sense of the available evidence.

Blood History is rather like tracing the course of a river on a map, I find. The flow to the sea is obvious, but it takes skill and divination to find each little tributary, brook and stream. One must know the lie of the land, recognise the scent of water in the air and have a good sense of the mineral substrata. So, then, must the Historian be able to see clues and names and dates where to the untrained eye exist only scribbles and dust. One needs an excellent memory, and above all, an appreciation for the glorious, fractal-like pattern of it all - stretching through the centuries and making each individual life appear small; the perspective of the non-living.

As we had agreed, Walburga called upon me each week, usually on a Sunday afternoon. Prior to each meeting, I prepared notes upon the discoveries I had made in the past seven days, along with individual corroborating documents, should she so wish to view them. I would let her in, and ask if she would like to sit down, just as I had done on that first occasion. I would also ask if she would like something to drink, for I learned that people like to be offered a beverage upon entering another's home, even if they are not thirsty. It seemed a very peculiar thing to do, but - as documented - the offer seemed to be well received, so I was pleased that the interaction was successful in that regard.

I quickly learned that Walburga was keen to hear the discoveries I had made in full detail - and that was extremely pleasing. I have been very frustrated in the past, when someone has asked me a question pertaining to a book I have published, and they halt the answer half-way through, with a request to 'get to the point,' or to 'just wrap it up, now'.

Walburga certainly did not do that. Indeed, she listened silently, and her non-verbal reactions fell into one of two categories:

When I described one of her respected and successful ancestors and the way in which that person was related to the extant family, she sat perfectly upright, her breathing slowed, and her eyes widened by approximately seven degrees. When I described an ancestor who had, in her view, brought shame upon the family, she was equally attentive, but her breathing became marginally faster and her lips pressed together with increased pressure. She would then ask that I annotate the report with an 'x', which would be 'meaningful to the embroiderer', apparently.

It was interesting to guess which response I would observe in each case - and, over time, I gleaned lots of patterns in the behaviour of her ancestors, and in how these would make Walburga's eyes widen, or her lips press together. Much later, I learned that the patterns we were uncovering were 'traditional social norms' (or lack thereof).

They were fascinating, although often totally illogical. For example, I learned that it was thought good to purposefully mispronounce a place name or a family name, if aristocratic people beforehand had previously made that mistake. It was thought better to allow a child to die if it had been born when the parents were not married, than to give birth to the child first and get married afterwards - which produces the same end result as doing those two things in the inverse order, after all; and that it was thought bad to make money out of trading, if the item traded were not itself magical.

As well as learning many things in this way, I liked just to watch her. However Walburga arranged her features, they were always symmetrical; I liked that very much. Sometimes I would ask about her approval or disapproval and the reason for it. Often, at that point, she would wish for me to reconfirm the conditions of secrecy that surrounded my commission - but when I had done so, she was willing to give a clear and proper explanation of her reasoning. No one had done that for me before; I was very grateful.

Over time, I also noticed that the conversations between Walburga and I increased in length - by up to an average of seven times - and lessened in their percentage of business. At first, 95% of the talk was directly related to the commission (the other 5% reserved for aforementioned discussion of beverages), but three months later, that was only 50%, lessening to just 12% a further six months on, when the work was nearly complete.

In hindsight, this seems perhaps strange. But stranger still, was that, at the time, I thought little of it. Indeed, when we were speaking with one another, I was more content than I could recall ever having been before.

I now include some examples of non-business related conversations in which Walburga and I engaged, in the following footnote. They are notated outside of the full text, because - as is the nature of footnotes - they do not seem to participate in the flow of the document.

A strict editor, then, would rule to exclude these things, due to lack of relevancy. I am somewhat inclined to agree... but yet I have a nagging sense that there are many things contained within, only some of which I understand. Perhaps, if the reader of this History is a more adept student of human beings than I, further relevancy will be unearthed. I therefore merely relate a sample of the conversations, verbatim.




Footnote to Chapter 2.ii



12th February, 1945


Cuthbert: And that is how I came to conclude that Eleanora Black was indeed the first cousin of Rosamunda Black.

Walburga: [applauds] That's so cunning! But, of course, it's simple when you know the answer.

Cuthbert: It may or may not be simple, but it will always be logical.

Walburga: [smiles] Quite so. I do so like your logic.

Cuthbert: Thank you.



17th March, 1945


Cuthbert: Miss Black, may I ask you about your reaction to the discovery that Isadora Black eloped with a Muggle, Frederick Brown, in 1804?

Walburga: Yes, you may. And, as we are speaking openly, please call me 'Walburga'. May I use your given name, Mr. Binns?

Cuthbert: Yes, I would be pleased if you were to do that.

Walburga: Thank you. And now, your question?

Cuthbert: My question is simple: why were you displeased to hear the above piece of information, even when the union of the two in question gave rise to twelve children, of whom eleven were magical, and ten amassed a large fortune, most of which is still in the Gringotts Black family vault? That seems contradictory to your reception to the news of the union of Clarissa Black with the Muggle Ted Smith, in 1818 - which was one of contentment.

Walburga: [smiles] I have never claimed not to be contradictory. [pauses] Well, to think about the two cases you mention - I can see your point, in that the ill-chosen union of Isadora did, at least produce a goodly number of viable offspring - so the tainted blood introduced there seemed, thankfully to be weak. But - and this is where I feel discomfort - it is embarrassing for us to rely now upon the spoils of a poor decision in the past. Clarissa and her foul husband died penniless and childless, however, so we can strike them off without a second thought. It's efficient. It's also called 'schadenfreude'.

Cuthbert: Thank you. I think I understand.

Walburga: You're welcome. [pauses] I'm glad that you ask me all of these questions, you know. No-one has done so before: critically ask my opinion about things that everyone proper just takes for granted, that is. It helps me to get it clear in my own mind, as a decent preparation for the future.

Cuthbert: Which respect of the future?

Walburga: My place in society, I suppose - and when it shall be arranged for me to assume that place.



3rd May, 1945


Walburga: Forgive me if this seems an odd thing to say, but - Cuthbert, you travel very widely for your work, and have been doing so for several decades. You speak several languages and can read several more.

Cuthbert: Yes, that is correct.

Walburga: Then, I was wondering how you find the people of all of these disparate nations? I've not travelled other than to France and Prussia, but note considerable cultural differences even between us and those close neighbours.

Cuthbert: I have travelled, it is true. However, it is also true that I have typically travelled to libraries, not to cities more broadly. My tickets are arranged by others, and these foreign places of study are usually quite unpopulated at the times I visit. Then, I Floo back here, and sleep in this flat. [pauses] On the other hand, it would be quite wrong to say that I have never interacted with foreign wizards in the course of my study. Sometimes - such as when a book has to be ordered - it is unavoidable.

Walburga: Unavoidable? That implies you dislike it?

Cuthbert: Your understanding is correct. Though, in general, I do not find interacting with foreigners more difficult than interacting with British witches and wizards. The differences between nations and languages pale into insignificance, it seems, in comparison to the differences between myself and other people.

Walburga: [pauses, looking slightly sad] And what is your explanation for that?

Cuthbert: To tell the truth, I do not understand it, myself; I merely observe that which seems to be the case. [pauses] I found out only last year, that when I was a child, the Mediwizards thought there was something wrong with me. I have always worn very thick glasses; I need them to see. They thought that perhaps I needed glasses for my brain, as well - to make me 'see' other people more clearly. But nothing was ever done about it.

Walburga: Well, on the contrary, I think you see other people more clearly than most. A detached perspective must be very useful in this world.

Cuthbert: Thank you; that is a kind thing to say.



1st July, 1945


Walburga: Cuthbert, I hope you don't mind me saying this, but... does it not bother you to spend so much time alone? You don't seem to see anyone other than when I visit, and I do worry sometimes, that you lack company.

Cuthbert: I do lack company, it is true. But I have never sought it. Generally, as I have said, I find people a difficulty.

Walburga: But me? You don't find me a difficulty, I hope.

Cuthbert: No, I do not find you a difficulty. Not at all.

Walburga: [pauses] Then perhaps you would you like to come to my house on occasion? We can sit comfortably there, and the elves have made ice-cream; you could have some, if you would like. Also, I can show you some of the family artefacts we have discussed, if you might find that interesting. We can go at a time when my parents and siblings are elsewhere, so it will not be too busy.

Cuthbert: Thank you for the invitation. I would like that very much.



14th August, 1945.


Cuthbert: ...So that is how, in the year 1595, the Giant ruler, Gragnok the Unwashed came to unite the disparate clans of Scorswood and Shawsnook, after a two-hundred-and-thirty-one year war between the two tribes.

Walburga: Merlin, that's amazing! How do you remember all of that?

Cuthbert: [pauses, considering] I do not know the answer to your question. I cannot conceive of not remembering something I have learned. How would one do that?

Walburga: How? Well, it just happens, I suppose. Over time, by itself.

Cuthbert: Does it happen to you?

Walburga: Yes.

Cuthbert: But how do you control it?

Walburga: [laughs] One can't. Indeed, if one tries to forget something, that will almost certainly be counterproductive - the thing would be remembered likely more than anything else.

Cuthbert: Really? That is extraordinary. Do you not find it terribly disconcerting - to have a memory that leaks, randomly?

Walburga: [laughs again] I suppose I'm used to it. Most people are. But - I can see, Cuthbert, that you would find it troubling. This goes some way to explaining your gift.

Cuthbert: And, will you forget me?

Walburga: No. [pauses] Or, at least, to prevent the paradox that I can see you're setting up - I am 99.9% sure I shall not forget you.

Cuthbert: [considers] Those are reasonable odds. Very well.



1st September, 1945.


Cuthbert: ...And that is how I came to conclude that Aloysius Black was the very same man as Sebastian Black III, via the emigration to Rome in 1398.

Walburga: [applauds] Gosh, that's fantastic. I love learning about the process; the way you describe it. [pauses] You know, Cuthbert, when I commissioned this study from you, I was just focussed on the utility of the end result. That remains important, of course, but you have really opened my eyes to the journey. It's fascinating; thank you.

Cuthbert: You are welcome.

Walburga: [gazes out of the window] You remind me of when I was much younger, and I thought I could be a Historian. I really wanted to be, you see. If I had been born a boy, that's what I would have done - been a scholar.

Cuthbert: Why do you place a conditional clause upon your aspiration linked to your sex? You have the requisite interest and intelligence, and it is biologically clear that men and women are equally potentially suited to intellectual endeavour. -That is aside from the leaky memory, I grant, but I imagine that thorough note-taking could be designed to compensate for that. You could be a Historian.

Walburga: [smiles] Do you really think so - that I could do it?

Cuthbert: Yes, of course.

Walburga: Gosh, thank you! [Exhales, shakes her head] But, listen to me - how carried-away I become with this silliness.

Cuthbert: [pauses] Why do you say it is silly?

Walburga: Well, because I'm a woman, of course. Pureblood women do not gad about having careers; they must be devoted to the family - honour and name above all else. I don't resent it - I embrace it, of course - but sometimes I look at those Mudblood girls - McGonagall, for instance - who have nothing to uphold and no escutcheon upon which to bring shame... and I wonder, just for a moment, what it would be like to be free...

Cuthbert: The negative reasons you give - those all seems strange to me.

Walburga: Yes, I can see that they do. [pauses] As I say, though, it's daft and ungrateful of me to pine after something that one is not. But - thank you. It means an awful lot to me that you said you thought I could do it, even though society dictates I shall not.

Cuthbert: You are welcome.

Walburga: You know, Cuthbert... if I may be so bold... that's one of the things that I like so much about talking with you: you explain History just as you would if you were talking to a man; you don't paraphrase, or simplify, or gloss-over detail just because I am female, and therefore supposed too weak-headed and insubstantial to understand. Nor do you treat me as a child because I am relatively young, compared with you. Thank you for that; thank you very much.

Cuthbert: I cannot imagine talking with you in a different way.

Walburga: Indeed. And that is why you are a very special person.

Cuthbert: But there are no thanks required. It would be highly illogical to me to withhold information and explanation based upon the sex or age of the listener - when all empirical evidence suggests that adult humans are equally capable, in principle, of processing such information.

Walburga: [smiles] Well, perhaps that is what this wizarding world of ours needs: more empirical evidence from you, and less dismissal of people, just because they're not middle-aged and male. ...Except Mudbloods, of course; they deserve all the dismissal they can get.

Cuthbert: I am not sure that I follow your logic.

Walburga: That's alright. -But you must have heard about what's happened in Prussia? The Mudbloods have triumphed, after all. Helped by interference from one of the Hogwarts Professors, no less!

Cuthbert: That is indeed true. But I do not judge; I merely observe the patterns.

Walburga: [smiles] Yes, I know. So thank you for not judging me before you knew me. I am sure the patterns will be clear in due course, and then we Purebloods shall rise again.




Chapter 2.iii


As time passed, I began to notice a difference in Walburga, in addition to the percentage of conversations which were not business-related. She had been so clear and measured at first, and that was why I had liked her.

Over time, though, I found that she became more changeable - not in an unpleasant way; no, not at all - but expressions would pass across her face more quickly than the clouds on a blustery day, and she would laugh far more, sometimes when I didn't understand why. Much later, I heard someone say that young women can be 'excitable'; perhaps that was true. I heard someone else say that they can be 'capricious' - but that seemed to be a very negative thing, so I'm sure it was not the case.

Overall, it is likely not surprising that she changed. She was, after all, a person, and changeability is one of the most difficult things about people.

What is surprising, however, is that I didn't seem to mind.

If anything, I found it enthralling. With most people, I feel nervous and uneasy when I don't understand what they are doing or saying, but with Walburga, I was happy just to be there with her, and to watch her. She was a perfect white-and-black kaleidoscope: symmetry in motion, with an utterly consonant voice that was a pleasure just to listen to, regardless of what was being said. I trusted her completely not to hurt me or to be difficult, even when I didn't understand. I had never trusted a person like that, before, not even my own Father.

Sometimes, Walburga would seem sad. When I thought she looked sad, it was almost as if I felt sad, and I wanted nothing more than for her to be happy, again, so that I could be, too. That was quite confusing, but I found that I didn't mind it, either. It was like the opposite of 'schadenfreude' - and although it felt sad at the time, it was possible to sort-of be pleased about it, afterwards - as if it was the actual act of matching feeling sad or happy that could make one feel pleased in general, not whether the feeling that was being matched was a happy one or a sad one per se.

With hindsight, I can say that for the second time in my life, I had fallen in love. Just like my book, when I was a child, I thought of Walburga all the time she wasn't there, and I wanted nothing more than to talk with her and to write to her. I looked forward to our weekly meetings more than I had looked forward to anything in my life; more so even than Flooing to the library in Alexandria, or when I had received an Order of Merlin for my 'History in 100,000 pages' becoming the best-selling Historical text of all time.

Being in love with a person is more difficult than being in love with a book. You can carry a book with you, wherever you go, but a person moves around on their own, and one is never sure where they are or where one will see them, next. Also, books get older in a predictable way: if you take good care of them they don't seem very different at all - aside from the odd scratch on the cover or a looseness to the spine - but people can change their thoughts and feelings and opinions, such that what was once written there disappears altogether and is replaced by information of an entirely different sort. That can be exciting, but also quite frightening.

The commission was finished, but Walburga and I carried on meeting about once every week, either at her family's house or in my flat. She told me all about what she had done in the preceding week, and was interested in the new books I was writing. She said that she could 'be herself' when she was talking to me, and that was different from how she felt when she was with her family or other members of her society. I was not quite sure what she meant by that, but it sounded positive, so I was pleased. I also did not know what she meant when she said that, one day, her life as a single young woman would have to come to an end - but it sounded like something that was making her sad - at least in part - so I didn't ask further.

It was at one of these tea-time conversations that Walburga shared her big idea about my future. "Cuthbert," she said, not looking at me, but looking around my little flat, in a circular motion, "It doesn't seem right that you're here on your own, lining the pockets of that obnoxious Mudblood downstairs."

I had no idea about the sort of fabric with which Pennyswipe's pockets were lined, but I let that pass. I could say, though, that I did not care much for man.

Walburga continued. "Well, I was thinking about it, you see. You might remember my great-grandfather, Phineas Nigellus Black?"

I said, "Yes, because Professor Black was the headmaster of Hogwarts when I was in my 6th year. I remember him as strict, and knowledgeable about Dark magic."

Walburga paused for a second, then smiled and said, "Quite." Then she said, "And both before him and since, my family has been influential in Hogwarts. My Father, Pollux Black, is on the Board of Governors.

I nodded. Her facts were clear so far, but I still didn't understand what it had to do with me.

"So, you see, if I asked him to get something done in Hogwarts, he would have the power to do it. For example, getting a new teacher appointed. Would you like to be a Professor at Hogwarts, Cuthbert? Would you like to teach History of Magic?"

I remained quiet for a very long time before answering, because it was a very big question. On one hand, it seemed a wonderful idea - being a Professor, getting to talk about History every day with lots of people listening quietly - and even getting paid for it.

However, I was nervous. Schools are very full of witches and wizards, and, unlike the occupation I had enjoyed all of my life, I would have to react to all of the odd things they would say and do. The thought made me anxious, and Walburga somehow guessed that, because she asked, "What's wrong?"

"The people," I replied. "I don't know whether I could cope with them all."

And then she said something very simple but very marvellous. "Of course you could. It will be wonderful for you." It wasn't a question (I could be sure of that, because the pitch of her voice did not rise at the end), it was a statement - as if she somehow knew a definite fact about me.

I like facts, but I like to make sure they are true, first. There was a risk that she might have been 'joking'. So I asked, "Really?" just as she had done, once before.

"Yes," she replied, "Really."

I was surprised and very happy. I utterly trusted Walburga to tell the truth, so that made me feel brave and excited, and I said 'yes' to her idea.

Within a fortnight, arrangements had been made, and I Flooed with my belongings to Hogwarts. Pennyswipe did not say, 'goodbye', but he did say, "Please don't let those Black wizards carry out their threats; will you? Will you, Mr. Binns, sir?"

I didn't know what he was talking about, and I didn't much like him, so I decided to ignore it.

I was met by Armando Dippet, the Headmaster, who showed me my rooms in which to live and to teach (My classroom is 4F, and I like it very much because it has room for all of my books), and explained about meals in the Hall and drinks in the staffroom. He handed me a timetable full of neat little squares, which I also liked very much; it reminded me of being a student there, and the rhythm and security of the castle. I had been happy at Hogwarts, all of those years ago, and was pleased to be back.

Later that day, I walked into the staffroom, and was met by a tall man with auburn hair and a long beard that matched. "Ah, Professor Binns, I assume?" he asked.

"Your assumption is correct," I replied.

"I am delighted to make your acquaintance. My name is Albus Dumbledore, and these are some of our colleagues - Filius Flitwick, Charms Master; Silvanus Kettleburn, Teacher of Care of Magical Creatures, and Horace Slughorn, Potions Master." He pointed in turn to each of the wizards standing in the small group, such that I might learn their names individually and shake their hands. It was very clear, and I liked that. Everyone said, 'hello'. It was going quite well, I thought.

"Would you join us for a drink?" asked Horace Slughorn.

That was the first example of what were to become many conversations I had with my new colleagues. I was very pleased to find that they were interested in History, and understood what I meant when I talked about patterns.

They were very helpful, too. On one occasion, Filius drew lots of diagrams of faces for me, and explained what people meant when they made each one - moving their eyebrows, cheeks and mouth in certain ways. He explained that it was just another kind of learning patterns, and that - us both being Ravenclaws - it would be easy to determine the logic behind it, and that could be a fun problem. He smiled as he said it. I like Filius.

Horace is somewhat more difficult to understand, because he says lots of things that aren't exactly true (but they aren't lies, Filius says, but 'metaphors'. Metaphors are not nasty, like lies). For example, when drinking a glass of wine, he once said that it was, "Exactly like a tuft of goat hair caught in the breeze on the volcanic slopes of a mountain, in spring, with a touch of physalis at the rear." I was sure that a glass of wine could not possibly be exactly like that.

On the other hand, though, Horace is kind and generous. He has often shared many of his sweets and drinks, and always takes the time to ask whether one is well. That, I have learned, is a kind thing to do - even if the information as to whether the other person is well has no direct relevance to the person asking the question.

Albus has always been very clear and fair; he is good at talking in a way that makes sense, and is logical, when he so chooses. I like talking about History with him, because he knows almost as much about it as I do. He also seems to understand a lot about people, even though he sometimes claims he doesn't. He once said, "Hogwarts is like a tropical ocean reef: it provides a safe environment for diverse and interesting creatures that wouldn't survive in the open water." Now I understand 'metaphors' better, I think that might be true.

When I joined the staff, the one thing that Albus and I disagreed about was Walburga. He said that the Black family had dangerous ideas and prejudices, and that I should be wary of their influence. I told him that Walburga was my best friend, and that I could not imagine being without her. He didn't say anything else about it, after that, but he looked a little sad at the same time as smiling. I wasn't sure what that expression meant, but perhaps he agreed with me that loving someone is not something that can be argued with. So he didn't argue about it, and then it was fine.

Walburga Flooed to the school sometimes on a Sunday afternoon and we had tea and cakes - but sometimes I Flooed, and we had tea and ice-cream in her big house on Grimmauld Place in London. It reminded me a bit of the house in which I had grown up - nice and neat and square - but with more gilded and decapitated things on the walls. They were interesting, but also not very pleasant to look at.

I liked being at Hogwarts - I was coping with the teaching just fine, so long as the students kept their questions to factual matters - and had even found a little time for writing, even though I knew the teaching and marking load would necessarily slow my output. -But I looked forward to seeing Walburga more than everything else put together.

I remember the first time she visited me in my new suite of rooms at the school. She seemed excited and talkative, and remarked that the rooms were very attractive and spacious, the tea brought by the elves was excellent, and that my timetable looked full and stimulating. I confirmed all of these observations as true.

Then she asked, "So are you happy here, Cuthbert? Did we - did you - make the right choice?"

I said, "Yes. Thank you very much for suggesting it."

Walburga paused, then smiled and said, "You're so sweet."

It was difficult to tell what she meant by that - how could a person taste sweet? She had most definitely not tasted me at all, and, given that I was not a foodstuff, it seemed quite an illogical thing to propose.

However, I could hear that her voice remained calm and consonant, and that she was still smiling, so I deduced that the comment - however obtuse - was intended to be positive. "Thank you," I said.

"Indeed, it's just as I imagined," she continued. "Hogwarts suits you so well, Cuthbert. You make an ideal Professor - what with all your facts and historical insight. I bet the students don't know what's hit them!" She laughed, and the pitch of it spanned a perfect octave, ascending. The sound was very pleasant. "It's perfect. Tell me you'll be here, always."

'Always' seemed a bold proposition. I, however, had no wish to disobey her. "I will be here always," I said.

So, it was done.



Chapter 2.iv


I had been at Hogwarts for six months when Walburga made her announcement. It was the 18th of May, 1946, and she had invited me to have tea at her family home in London. The day was unseasonably warm and very humid; some of the flowers had begun to rot in their buds before they had even bloomed.

She met me at the door and let me into the parlour, just as usual. The elves had brought a tray, but there was no ice-cream today, just tea. It was black and very bitter. Walburga did not ask how my week had been, nor did she volunteer her own news. Her brow looked tense and had lines just at the top of the nose, in what Filius said was a 'frown'. I had never seen her looking so quiet and tense, and it made me feel sad.

When she had poured the tea, Walburga said, "I'm so sorry Cuthbert. There is something I have to tell you."

I nodded and said, "Very well. What is it?"

"I have to get married," she replied.

I was confused: I knew about getting married - it was something that happened to people once, on a spring afternoon, like getting a health-check from a Mediwizard, or getting a book published. It wouldn't take long.

Therefore, I didn't understand why she thought it was important to tell me, and why she was apologising - and I said as much.

She smiled. It seemed very kind, but still sad. It was the same look that Albus gave me once, when we had talked about Walburga, and it meant that someone was thinking two different things at the same time, so I am told.

Walburga said, "I have to apologise because it will mean I can't see you any more, Cuthbert. I'm very sorry. I will miss our chats, terribly. My future husband... he's very possessive. He does not take kindly to me having any male friends, of whatever age.

"I knew it would happen one day, but my parents have arranged the marriage for a few months' time, so I must leave dreams and toys and conversations behind me. I have to fulfil my destiny as the next Black matriarch, and that means I must do as Orion says. I'm very sorry."

I didn't say anything at all. I didn't know what to say, but - even if I had - it truly felt as if my lips and tongue didn't work anymore, and thus I was not capable of it. My breathing didn't seem to function properly, either. It came in strange gasps and coughs, and my eyes felt all wet. I didn't understand what was happening to me, and I felt very afraid.

Walburga said, "Oh, Cuthbert, don't - please, I'm so sorry, I..." and then she put her hand on top of my hand on the table. It was soft and warm and very nice, but I couldn't understand why she was doing something so nice at the same time as making me so unhappy. The confusion of it made me feel even worse.

I never got the chance to ask, however, because at that point, a man appeared in the doorway of the room. He was large and dark, and had an angry look, showing many of his teeth.

"Walburga!" He shouted, "I've told you before: I won't tolerate your sneaking off."

"I wasn't," Walburga said, and her hand gripped mine more tightly as it lay there, "I just needed to-"

"-And what in Merlin's fucking name are you doing with that old creep?" the man shouted, "I won't have it. He's a bloody pervert, that's for sure."

"Orion, please... he's younger than us, really. Cuthbert would never even think of-"

"-I won't stand for it! I won't have you seeing him."

Walburga stood up and placed herself between the newcomer and me. "No! You don't understand. I was just-"

She never got to finish her sentence, however, because at that point, he hit her across the face. I screamed and disapparated, in panic.

That was the last time I saw the person I love.



Chapter 3 [ed. 1991]



I thought about what happened, afterwards - for days; months; years.

I knew I couldn't see Walburga again, because then she would be hit again, and that would make me very unhappy, indeed. I read somewhere that if one loves a person, one doesn't want that person to come to any harm - and one would do anything to stop that from happening, even if it harmed oneself in the process.

Well, that was exactly accurate, I found - and I noted that, for once, a book which wasn't purely about History might be correct.

Even if it harmed oneself in the process.

I thought about that phrase a lot; it certainly did. For the first time in my life, my 'heart' was 'broken'.

It is a decidedly peculiar phrase, is it not? The cardiovascular apparatus residing in my chest was, of course, as untouched as ever. Yet something - something which I did not, and still do not fully understand - happened over that time that made me feel sick and faint, as if my throat was constricting too much and something in my chest was under a dangerous amount of pressure; as if I was being squashed by something so heavy I might die.

As it happened, though, I did not die - at least not at that point and from that cause.

My colleagues were very kind to me. Several of them asked as to whether I was well, and listened calmly when I explained that I was not. Horace gave me a bottle of his favourite wine and a box of his favourite sweets. Filius was especially helpful; he brought me to realise that I was not the first and only person in the world to have felt like that, even though it seemed so individual and painful it could not have possibly occurred before, in the whole of History. For the first time in my life, I was told that I was like other people, and it was a comfort.

And thus, also for the first time in my life, I realised why all the other people in the world say words they do not mean and make up stories and lies (or 'metaphors') to describe something that is real: to make it unreal. -Because sometimes there is something so strange and awful that it defies words and needs its own odd universe of make-believe and falsehood, just to be described at all. Perhaps, if you describe something dreadful and real in words that cannot possibly be real, it makes the thing itself less real, too. And that must be how most people manage to cope, all the time, when they feel as if they are going to die.

As I said, I never saw Walburga again, after that - nor did we communicate again by letter or any other means. Occasionally, I heard something about her: that she had given birth to a child, or had influenced a decision in the Hogwarts Governing Body - but I tried not to discover any information, lest the mere fact of my knowing might somehow make its way to her husband, and she would get hurt because of it. I still valued her safety and happiness above all else.

However, I held true to the promise I made to her: I shall be here always.

I died on June 17th, 1963, at 4:03am. I don't remember it, because I was asleep at the time, in front of the fire in the staffroom. I have spoken to other ghosts, who describe a point of decision at the moment of death - that they could either go through a door, or on a train, or up a ladder, or not - and they, invariably, chose 'not'. I suspect I have no such memory because I had already made my decision; when I make a promise, I keep it.

Albus, who was Headmaster by then, said that I could carry on teaching History of Magic, if I wanted to. He also said that he thought Historians were important, and he wished he had read my book, ' The rise of dictators past: patterns for the future of Prussia? when it had first been published, in 1943 - because that might have made him 'save some time and a lot of heart'. I wasn't sure what he meant by that, and I didn't ask. According to Filius' diagrams, it looked as if it might have been 'private.'

He did say, however, that he thought the dispassionate treatment of such topics was probably the most useful a human can achieve - and that perhaps, as a ghost, I would be even better equipped than I was in life, for revealing the patterns of beings and their follies. I told him that being a ghost did not feel very different to me from being alive; I still existed on the fringes of the world - only now, perhaps that sense was more legitimate.

That, in itself, is a comfort. It is nice to officially not fit in, rather than merely feeling as if one is an alien, with no outward sign of it to use as evidence. The only person who made me feel as if I was truly a person was Walburga. She is gone, now - to me, and to the world - so I am an alien once more, and shall be for ever more.

Albus said he hoped I would be willing and able to continue turning a trained Historical eye to the affairs of the day, whatever they may be. He paused, and I thought he might have looked 'worried'.

In the ensuing years, there have indeed been a lot of stirrings - much bloodshed and bad news - and I can see that some of the people in Hogwarts have been made to feel as I felt when I lost Walburga, by the war. I am sorry that they feel that way; I would not wish it upon anyone.

Indeed, it is the first time I have seen a series of historical events as anything other than a comforting, logical list. It is strange that after so many decades of being an expert at History, I should now come to see it differently - as a mess of people and feelings, with no clarity and pattern at all, because one is too close. It is strange that I had to have my 'heart' 'broken' to be able to see it like that. I'm not sure whether or not I like it, and whether it is of help or hindrance to my writings.

I do my best to keep my promise to Albus - that I will try to benefit the school for as long as I am here - but I find that I don't remember some things very well, anymore. History is as clear as ever - all of the names and dates and battles in perfect order, like a freshly-set chessboard - but things that happen in the present day are very blurred, and wash over me, like the swell of the lake when I dive through it. I have difficulty remembering the names of my students, for example - they all look the same, when one is a ghost. And I am increasingly bad with dates and times of the year - Christmas and summer look much the same when one cannot feel cold or warmth, and cannot taste roast goose or summer pudding.

But, still, I try.

I am told that we shall soon be entering a new Historical chapter: a boy, a chosen boy will be joining us this autumn, and that all manner of things in the world are likely to happen.

I will watch, and do my best. One day, when the muddy fields have cleared, the fallen are long buried and the survivors are old and toothless, I shall see the exquisite, fractal patterns of it, and it will look beautiful. When all has passed to dust and History, I shall be here; always.



Bibliography


This is usually my favourite part of a book, because it tells where one may find more interesting books and papers. I also like the soothing rhythm of lists, all arranged in the same order: author, date, title, publisher.

I find, however, that there is little to put here, and that I have already broken convention, by instead entering prose.

I can cite my first love, of course:


Oglewood, E., 1856. A History of magic from ancient times to the present day. London: Galleon Press. Reprinted in 1935, ed. Binns., C.



And I should list a small selection of my own works, lest the reader wish to reference them further:


Binns, C., 1885. A History of the magical world in 100,000 pages. London: House of Quillbright.

Binns, C., 1886a Goblins revisited: New evidence for ancient civilizations in the Far East. London: House of Quillbright..

Binns, C., 1886b Goblins re-revisited: Rebutting new evidence for ancient civilizations in the Far East. Canterbury: Pursebank.

Binns, C., 1901, Giant wars, then and now. Canterbury: Pursebank, Canterbury.

Binns, C., 1905, The origins of ancient runes. Canterbury: Pursebank, Canterbury.

Binns, C., 1911, The historical uses of Abyssinian unicorns in potion-making. Canterbury: Pursebank, Canterbury.

Binns, C., 1912, Dragon farming in Transylvania in the seventeenth century. Canterbury: Pursebank, Canterbury.

Binns, C., 1920, A history of wizarding dress and costume. Canterbury: Pursebank, Canterbury.

Binns, C., 1922, Wizard-Muggle relations through the ages. Canterbury: Pursebank, Canterbury.

Binns, C.,1929, Bowtruckles: uncovering intelligent beings in wizarding prehistory. Canterbury: Pennyswipe, Canterbury.

Binns, C.,1931, Native rock art, and the origins of Magic. Canterbury: Pennyswipe, Canterbury.

Binns, C., 1935, Why don't wizards have royalty? -And other questions of Magical power and leadership through the ages. Canterbury: Pennyswipe, Canterbury.

Binns, C., 1939, Goblin rebellions over time - patterns of distrust and riot Canterbury: Pennyswipe, Canterbury.

Binns, C., 1943 The rise of dictators past: patterns for the future of Prussia? Canterbury: Pennyswipe, Canterbury.

[Binns, C., 1945 The most noble and ancient house of Black: A History Private commission, unpublished.]

Binns, C., 1953 The history of Merfolk from Persian lakes to the present day. Hogsmeade: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Binns, C., 1964 The use of magical creatures for spying and reconnaissance in Wizard-Muggle skirmishes. Hogsmeade: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Binns, C., 1977 Reflections of war: Ancient Greece and Sparta. Hogsmeade: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Binns, C., 1982 Goblin-Wizard relations in the eighteenth century. Hogsmeade: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Binns, C., 1990Where did we go wrong? Stirrings of battle and hope in late twentieth century Britain. Hogsmeade: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.


But perhaps most of all, I should cite a source that bears only a little text. For I have learned, over all of these years, that sometimes people do not make sense, and that state is the natural order of things. People and their feelings are not logical, and that is, after all, how the world should be - and we should love them for it. So, through all of this and despite all appearances, I have learned that I am a person, too.


Archdover and Sons Inc., 1985. Gravestone in Black family plot, Conningham Square, London. Amended, to present, with daily addition of red rose (non-corporeal); 2190 specimens added to date [31st March 1991], ed. C. Binns, 1985-






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