Chapter 1 : Jack
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Without further adieu...
Every head in the Wizengamot swiveled to face the source of the noise. The small door swung slowly open, straining its hinges. Feelings of fearful anxiety, excited curiosity, and flat-out terror drifted above the heads of the assembly. They were waiting, but they were not doing so in peace.
Six dementors glided into the chamber and waited, lined up beside the door. A chill scuttled its way among the court members, more from the notion that the man about to be tried needed so many guards than from these guards themselves.
The man entered. His gait was slow and unstable, like a drunk’s. He slouched terribly and his arms hung at his sides like damp noodles. He hardly looked capable of standing up straight, let alone committing the murders with which he was charged. Though the rest of him seemed lax and languid, his eyes were very wide, constantly scanning the room, seeming almost thirsty in their wild absorption of the view. Every once in a while they would stop, focusing on one specific point, pupils dilating eagerly, hungrily. Gaping like wounds.
The Chief Warlock, a tall man whose mustache seemed to be on the brink of dropping from his face, ground his teeth nervously, “Take your seat.”
He didn’t have time to comply. Two of the dementors seized him by the arms and forced him into the simple, centered chair. He didn’t fight back, only let his body be tossed on the seat while his eyes continued to dart around the room. He also didn’t appear to notice when the chains wrapped tightly around his wrists, binding him to the chair. When he eventually noticed the restraints, he stared at them for a few seconds, flexing his fingers. He smiled.
The Chief Warlock spoke, “Edwin Walker.”
The man in the chair gazed fondly at his hand, testing his joints, completely engrossed by the movement. One by one by one his fingers lifted slowly from the arm of the chair, hovering in the air only long enough for the next to start its journey upwards. His grin never faltered.
He tried again, clearing his throat, “Edwin Walker.”
The man turned his head slowly to face him, letting his eyes roll obscenely across the Chief Warlock’s body before answering, in a voice as insubstantial as gossamer, “Yes?”
The Warlock chewed his lip. Something about the sound of that voice made him want to crawl under a very thick blanket and hide. It just didn’t sound human.
Determined both to get straight to business and to regain his composure, he looked down at the parchment before him, “You stand accused of… of…” He sighed, cradling his head in one hand.
The man’s smile grew wider, “…of furthering the study of Healing?”
The Chief Warlock looked up, and was startled to discover that the man was staring directly at his chest, those greedy eyes drinking in every drop of the rich, plum robe. But something in that gaze – so focused, so utterly mad – told him that the man wasn’t seeing his clothing at all.
He gulped, feeling that the room was getting smaller by the second. Stammering, he tried to continue, “You stand accused of the murder and subsequent mutilation of four women…” He paused to steady the shaking of his hands. He’d heard the cases of hundreds of heinous criminals before, and ordinarily when he looked any of them in the eyes, they were the first to avert their gaze. His constitution was not a weak one. But he crumpled beneath the frenetic ogling of this man as though he were made of dry parchment; because the creature chained to that chair wasn’t merely staring at him, but through him, into him, as one would a concealed window. His eyes peeled the Chief Warlock’s very flesh from his skull.
He took a deep breath, and on exhaling, continued, “The penalty for such atrocities is life in Azkaban, with the possibility of severance by means of the Kiss.”
The villain showed no change in emotion, only continued to gaze with obvious delight at the Chief Warlock’s thorax.
“Your heart beats very quickly, your honor,” the man spoke suddenly, almost excitedly, “Are you, perhaps, frightened?”
“What?” he answered, forgetting his demeanor.
“I could fix that,” he continued, seemingly speaking more to himself than the supervisor, “I’m sure I could, given the time and resources… I could draft a potion that – no,” he raised his dancing eyes to the other man’s forehead, “I could create a draught,” his voice was steadily rising, his speech quickening, “that erases fear from the mind! I can see it –”
“Sir,” he attempted to interrupt the man’s frenzied ramblings with little effect.
“I would need only the proper ingredients – the funding – a test subject,” he was straining against the chains now, staring with a bizarre intensity at the Chief Warlock’s head. Two of the six dementors broke from their ranks and endeavored to pacify him. He struggled bitterly as they held his shoulders against the back of the chair.
“I have to – it needs to be done!”
A thin, shallow gash appeared suddenly above the Chief Warlock’s left eye. He cried out briefly, jerking his hand automatically to the wound. He growled, angrily and most uncharacteristically, dabbing at the cut with a handkerchief while the remaining four dementors glided forward to subdue the man. In their presence his fervor dissipated, his breath slowing and deepening. Finally, he gave a great sigh and hung his head.
“That is quite enough,” the Chief Warlock said with finality. His nerves were relaxing again now that the man’s eyes no longer met his. The top of his balding head was far less intimidating.
“We are here today to hear your testimony, Healer, and I ask that you not waste our time with your antics.”
The man made a grunting noise, his fingers twitching.
“Right.” The supervisor stowed his handkerchief, having stemmed the flow of blood, “The charges have been read; have you anything to say in your defense?”
After a very protracted pause, the man lifted his head. His eyes were closed.
“Forgive me, your honor,” he said, his voice perfectly controlled, “I ought less to keep my eyes open these days.”
He sighed heavily, offering no explanation for his odd statement.
“But I do feel the need to – ah – ‘say something in my defense,’ was it?”
His brows were furrowed, and his eyelids seemed to tremble with the effort it took to keep them closed.
“I was acting, sirs,” he continued, addressing the whole court now, “purely in the interest of science. I meant no malevolence.”
“And yet,” the Chief Warlock began, in a tone rife with disgust, “we have four dead women, one of whom…” he paused for a moment, unsure of quite what he wanted to say. His gaze had fallen on a photograph amongst the stacks of parchment before him: both Muggle and wizard investigators examined the body in the scene, sprawled, bloody and gutted, on a bed, oddly still next to the moving men. That thing barely looked like it could have ever lived on Earth, let alone as a human, so thoroughly had it been torn apart.
Wresting his stare from the morbid photograph, he continued, “…one of whom no longer resembles a woman. Surely you cannot claim that your motives were pure in such a case?”
The man was shaking his head, gritting his teeth in something like aggravation or confusion.
“Everything I did – I’m sure of it – was for the pursuit of knowledge, for learning.”
“Really,” said the Chief Warlock, glaring at the man in such a way that might have seriously unnerved this criminal had his eyes been open.
“Yes, your honor,” the man replied simply, with conviction. But the hint of a question, the shadow of a doubt was hidden behind his confidence, as though there was something in that statement he couldn’t be sure about.
The Chief Warlock leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest, looking down his nose at this little man, scrutinizing this creature that, mere minutes before, had seemed a monstrous presence in the room. The papers, both Muggle and wizard, had given him a name not long after the killings began: Jack the Ripper, they called him, the Whitechapel Horror. When he first saw the man, he could almost believe that he really was Jack, so disturbing was the murderous stare he’d laid on the court. Now, when the man seemed so unsure of himself, his horrifying eyes shut tight – how could this little being possibly be anyone other than Healer Edwin Walker, former candidate for Head of St. Mungo’s? Whereas he’d been the picture of guilt before, he now practically oozed innocence. There was something almost childlike about him.
“I should very much like to hear about that,” he said finally, hoping that listening to the man talk would convince him further, “As I’m sure would the rest of the court.” He scanned the faces of his colleagues, most of them nodding or giving other expressions of assent. The man in the chair dared to open his eyes a fraction of their previous width, and though the gesture in itself was distressing, it was insignificant alongside the unrest he’d been causing earlier. The Chief Warlock motioned for the court scribe to take up his quill.
“You may begin your testimony, Hr. Walker.”
The man gave a small, unsettling smile that didn’t fit the rest of his face, and began to speak.
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