I meet Orlo Stent in the ruins of the Ministry of Magic, at his insistence. “This is where we lost the war” he insists. He’s a gruff old man now, but beneath surface you can still see the shadow of the legendary Auror he once was. He wears his old combat robe and medals with pride. He hobbles on a cane, which he jabs at the air angrily while he speaks.
Why did we lose this war ? How could we have lost it? I still get asked these questions. Mostly from those grand old pureblood families. You know the type, bought their way into a political position, sat on the sidelines chastising us for dying too quickly. The ones who licked their lips the moment war was declared, like it was all their christmases come at once.
We all thought we were better than them. For most of human history, we WERE better than them. We were taught that from school, in our newspapers, everywhere. It wasn’t just the Muggle haters who felt that. Even those who claimed to love muggles treated them like inferiors. That they were adorable, they should be protected.
He spits on the ground
Bloody fools. But do you know what ? I don’t think that lost us the war. If it was just about our worldview, then we could have crushed them like ants.
All our scenarios for a joint muggle attack ended one way. Genocide, or an immediate negotiated peace. Yep, you can definitely say that our arrogance was our undoing. But even that kind of arrogance was forgivable. We were objectively the superior race of this planet. I’m not being racist, that was just a fact. We had magic, you didn’t. How COULD we lose ?
Ignorance. Plain and simple. When I look back, it am astounded. No matter how stupid you think we were before the war, we were stupider. Ask anyone from the ministry about machine guns, land mines, heavy artillery ? Blank stares. Those are just the technologies that had been around for hundreds of years before the war started. You think they were prepared for Guided Missiles ? Drones ? Rail Guns ?
Sometimes people would talk about Nuclear weapons. But conversation about those would be hushed up pretty quickly, or dismissed as a legend. The scaremongering fantasies of muggle haters, or a cheap attempt to make Muggles seem like equals to wizards.
There is one story one of the old ministers for magic told me to show how little we had to fear from muggles. He had a conversation with the British Prime Minister and asked him what the most dangerous weapon in their Arsenal was. The British Prime Minister told him.
“A Trident !” the Minister for Magic would laugh “All we have to do is avoid the pointy end”.
Yeah, I’m not even making that up. That’s how we saw you, primitives with pointy sticks. I still tell this stories to Muggles, who laugh right back, because they knew what Trident was.
We knew so little, and thought we knew so much. So many issues that could have been solved by simple diplomacy were escalated because we refused to treat them as equals. So many problems could have been averted if we paid attention to what they were doing.
The Ministry was rife with that ignorance. Did you know that before the war, we invested more money in enforcing international standards of cauldron thickness than the whole of Muggle Relations ?
If you want to work in Muggle Relations, then you’d better get used to living on the breadline, and being shunned by your colleagues. The kind of people who ended up in that field... they were not our best people.
I don’t want to speak ill of the late Arthur Weasley. He was a good man. But he turned the Muggle Relations into the Muggle Protection Society. Chasing after cursed teapots and dark wizard pranksters. Commendable work, right ?
Except, every single official interaction between the wizarding world and the muggle world had one simple function. To ensure that we remained secret. To enforce the International Statute for Wizarding Secrecy. That casts a whole different sheen on things.
Now, to be fair, Weasley’s department was cruelly underfunded. All he could do was triage, prevent the worst cases. If a wizard say, lost a wand on the streets of London, or a chocolate frog got loose, so long as it isn’t hurting anyone, it could wait.
Is it any surprise that so many magical items ended up in muggle laboratories across the world ?
If we knew then what we knew now, we would have shown up to Weasleys house with a galleon of galleons. Can you believe that the muggles managed to get a Hand of Glory ? Those things are prohibited to most wizards! But some damned voldemort wannabe carelessly left it lying around after a night of muggle baiting. Cretins !
People blame the Muggleborn conspiracy, because of course they would. Purebloods have been fantasising about those conspiracies for longer than they’ve actually existed. You know what, yeah, those turncoats did a heck of a lot of damage. Spilling our secrets to muggle governments, helping them understand magic.
But there is one question that I always ask. Why did no-one spill muggle secrets to us ? Who was there to warn us about all the little things they were cooking up ? Etheric Disruptors, anyone ? Oblivion Implants ? Heck, do you know how many innocent lives could have been saved if just one, just ONE person decided to warn us about the Chaos Engine ?
This is what centuries of racial warfare and prejudice does to a society. Yeah, I said it, I know people don’t like what I say, but it’s the truth. Grindelwald and Voldemort were symptoms of a divided society. It’s what the Potters, the Weasleys all warned us about, and we didn’t listen. Instead, we turned on them.
That was the last wizarding war, that is, the last war between wizards. Every dingbat who could bake a horcrux decided that they could be the next dark lord. It was chaos. At the end of it, the Potters retreated from public life, and the last Weasley broke their wand and gave up on the wizarding world. She wasn’t the only one.
Everyone blames that last war on our relationship with the muggles. But it goes deeper than that, so much deeper. If it was just because of our ignorance of muggles, then you know what? We could restart this war tomorrow, and wipe them off the face of the earth.
Except, then we run into the most uncomfortable fact of all. The one that is the most difficult to accept. It’s why each successive year, Hogwarts gets emptier and emptier.
It wasn’t just our ignorance of muggles that lost us the war. It was our ignorance of magic itself. Sure, we could use magic, but we had no idea how it worked. We were spoilt, spoilt brats given everything we ever wanted. We believed that muggles were still stuck in the seventeenth century, but truth is, we were the ones who were stuck.
The Secrecy act fossilised our society. Without magic to solve their problems, muggles became problem solvers. They used their science to truly understand magic in ways we never even attempted. That’s the biggest irony of the muggle war.
We were fighting an enemy who by definition, could not use magic, but understood it far better than we did. I still get death howlers over saying that, but it’s the truth, and everyone KNOWS its the truth.
That’s why more and more parents are sending their children to muggle academies to study the Etheric Sciences, and Hogwarts gets emptier with each year. In the end, that’s why we lost the war long before the first curse was cast.
He points at a giant metal statue of Harry Potter, tipped onto its side and rusting away.
Godamnit, we were great once.