One of Christopher Lightwood’s earliest memories was of his mother, Cecily Lightwood, being rushed to the infirmary after a fight with a pack of Raum demons. Christopher and his older sister Anna were at the London Institute at the time, being looked after by their aunt Tessa and uncle Will while their parents were out on patrol. Tessa whisked Christopher away quickly, but not before he saw the worried look on Will’s face as he went to summon the Silent Brothers.
Later, Christopher sat by his mother’s bedside as she recovered from the Raum poison. She drifted in and out of consciousness, waking and smiling when she saw him and then falling back into sleep. Uncle Will waved his arms about a great deal, despairing that his sister was entirely too brave for her own good. Christopher’s father, Gabriel Lightwood, reminded Will that courage against all odds was what made them Shadowhunters, wasn’t it? This caused Will to splutter. But Christopher could tell that his father had been truly frightened, and was deeply relieved that Cecily was recovering. Christopher leaned against his father.
“Is hunting demons scary?” He asked.
Gabriel sighed, and drew Christopher closer. “It can be scary, but a world overrun by demons is much scarier.”
That made sense, but Christopher continued his line of questioning. “Fighting them with swords and daggers, that is scary. But what if there are other ways to fight them?”
His father looked puzzled. “Like with ranged weapons? Bows and arrows?”
Christopher couldn’t explain the ideas that were rushing through his head. He didn’t have the language for them yet. Instead he just smiled. “Not exactly,” he said. “But don’t worry. I’ll figure it out.”
When Christopher was eight, his father and his uncle Gideon shut themselves in the study and talked in loud important voices about Christopher’s aunt Tatiana, and Tatiana’s boy Jesse. Christopher understood that Jesse was a cousin who he had never met, and that Jesse was sick.
Only a short while later, they received word that Jesse had died. Christopher’s father tried to visit aunt Tatiana, but she would not see him. When Gabriel came home, Cecily put her arms around him, and he cried. Christopher was shocked, less by his father’s tears than by the fact that they’d had a cousin who they’d never been allowed to meet, and now never could meet. Thoughts kept running around in Christopher’s mind. This is all wrong. If we had met him, we might have been able to help him. To save him. But when he said this out loud to his mother, Cecily only smiled sadly. “You are a brave and daring boy,” she said. “The world needs more minds like yours, Christopher. But you cannot take on the responsibility for saving every life. That is too heavy a load for one person to bear. The Silent Brothers were with Jesse before he died, and they are the wisest among us. Surely they would have saved him if he could have been saved.”
Christopher thought, But the Silent Brothers only hold certain kinds of wisdom. What if there was a different kind that could have saved Jesse? But he held his tongue.
Then, when Christopher was ten, Anna was bitten by a demon, and the wound became infected. The whole family was frenzied with worry for a day and a night over Christopher’s older sister. The fever was the problem that lasted, the problem that loomed in his mind demanding a solution. Far too often in his life, Christopher found himself thinking the same thoughts he had the day Jesse died. This is all wrong. Something must be done about this.
Christopher had many cousins. Matthew wasn’t a cousin, but their parents were friends and they were as good as family: that was always understood. Christopher had called Matthew’s father uncle Henry since he could talk, and had always been impressed by the intriguing chair Henry got about in. Then one day Christopher got into Henry’s laboratory, which he found even more intriguing than the chair. Henry had left out his notes for an experiment, and Christopher promptly tried to perform said experiment.
You never forget your first explosion.
“Oh, well done, most well thought out,” said uncle Henry, but then aunt Charlotte had ‘a word’ with him. It was actually many words. Christopher didn’t see why people were so inaccurate.
After the many words, uncle Henry said that Christopher was too young to be causing explosions, and the laboratory was a dangerous place, and Christopher wasn’t allowed to touch anything in it without permission. Nor was Matthew, but Matthew didn’t want to. Matthew was interested in talking about mystifying things, like how Uncle Henry should ‘eat more’ and put a stop to a brilliant experiment for a foolish reason like ‘everything is on fire.’
Christopher was impelled by true scientific curiosity. He thought over the problem, and gave himself permission to touch whatever he wanted in the laboratory. Sometimes Uncle Henry locked things up away from Christopher, so Christopher was forced to break into cabinets.
It was all quite vexing, but scientific progress was an avalanche that must not be stopped. Christopher read Marie Curie’s papers on radium, the element that could destroy tumors. He read John Snow’s essay on how cholera might spread through a public water pump. He attempted to write his own piece, on Henry Fairchild’s invention of the Portal. These were the people who were looking at the world inventively, seeking the root cause of the problems that plagued humanity.
“Who do you think is the Shadowhunter who has saved the most lives, boy?” the Inquisitor asked him, when the Inquisitor was visiting the Consul at her London home, and Christopher emerged from the laboratory to have a snack. “I suppose you think it’s your papa.”
“No,” said Christopher after a moment’s thought. “I would say my Uncle Henry.”
The Inquisitor appeared thunderstruck.
“I performed an analysis,” Christopher said peacefully. “If Uncle Henry had not invented the Portal, there is a strong possibility that our numbers would be less by a third. I believe you yourself would have died nine years ago, during the Dantalion attack on the York Institute. Since Portals will exist long after uncle Henry is dead, I expect he will end up having saved more lives than any other Shadowhunter, including Jonathan Shadowhunter. Unless I can invent something which will be as useful. Which naturally I aspire to do.”
Christopher returned to the laboratory thinking about demons. How they walked between worlds, how stabbing them was a temporary solution at best, since they could always re-form in their own home worlds and return to wreak more havoc. How no one else seemed to be looking towards the root of these problems. Well, almost no one.
“Does it ever bother you?” Christopher asked Henry tentatively, a few hours later. “The way our people are? What they value, and what they… don’t?”
Henry laughed. “Does it matter if it bothers me? It doesn’t change the fact there is work to be done.”
It was a sensible and practical answer, but for once Christopher found himself wanting more. Henry understood him, the way Henry always seemed to.
“I know what I value,” Henry said firmly. “I do not think we are as separated from the ways of the Nephilim as you think. We are all warriors, charged by the Angel to keep the world safe in our different ways. We won’t win if any one of us fights alone. What do you want the most?”
“There is so much wrong with the world,” said Christopher. “I want it to make sense. I want to put it right. I want to find the solutions that are overlooked by others.” He gazed upon the diatom arrangements, the shining brass of their microscopes, the weapons they were trying to modify and the devices they were attempting to invent. Matthew talked about truth and beauty a great deal. This was where Christopher had always found his.
“This was what I felt most called to do,” said Henry. “I always thought it was right to use my mind, the best weapon I have, for the cause I believe in. It is a joy to see you reach for the weapon I reached for.”
“So I should join you in all your experiments, then,” Christopher said triumphantly.
“Yes,” Henry said. Then he hesitated, and for a moment Christopher thought he might deliver a lecture about being careful and preventing explosions. But Henry didn’t. Instead he just said, “Yes, we should.”
From then on, Christopher regarded science as not only that which he loved but as his Shadowhunter duty. Perhaps nobody else would ever think it, but he knew he was dedicated as an Iron Sister, a Silent Brother, a warrior stepping forward to face a field of demons.
When he was tired, or people were unreasonable, or his little brother wailed outside his door, Christopher remembered the smile on the face of the Shadowhunter he respected most, and Henry saying “Come, Christopher. Take up your best weapon, and fight your best fight.”