Chapter Sixteen – Guilty
As the clock in the downstairs hallways chimes seven, my eyes blink open. The room is dark, even for late October, and glancing outside, I see the skies are overcast. How fitting. My eyes move over the red and white walls, the solitary Quidditch poster, the dark mahogany furniture, the overcrowded bookshelf… The images I see, however, are not those before my eyes. They are not of the unexpected adultness of Albus’ bedroom but of the only smiling face from my childhood. Only the smile. Nothing else.
Walking out of his bedroom to the bathroom, I pass the mirror. It is small, barely large enough to fit my entire face. It has been turned to face the wall. Partly out of respect; partly because I cannot bear to see my reflection. I look too much like her you see. When I look into a mirror all I can see is my mother’s face. It is never smiling, not like the images I see in my mind. It is filled with guilt. I do not know if it is her guilt for leaving me… Or my guilt. Because it is my fault.
Once I am showered and dried, I make my way back into Albus’ bedroom. Arranged on the chair in the corner is a set of dark grey robes. I put them on. Then I go downstairs. Occupying the kitchen are Mr and Mrs Potter and their friend Mrs Hermione Weasley.
“Good morning Vivian,” Mrs Potter smiles at me softly. I nod in reply. Mrs Potter glances at her husband, a worried look adorning her features. Mrs Weasley watches as I prepare my breakfast. No one speaks. The ticking of the clock in the hallway is audible even from here. When I have finished, Mrs Weasley stands up.
“Shall we go?” she asks me. I nod again and follow her into the hall, glancing at the offending clock as I pull on my cloak. I think someone must have brought my clothing from the house. Mrs Potter smiles at me once again and promises me she will be there. I just nod. The two women glance at each other but I do not bother to read their expressions. There will either be worry or pity. Neither of which I wish to see. Mr Potter rests a hand on my shoulder and nods to me before I step out of the front door and into the drizzling October air.
Mrs Weasley leads me down the road to a house similar to the one we had just left. The path leading up to it is gravel. It is odd, the pointless things you notice. She opens the door with her wand and leads me straight across the hall and into the sitting room.
“My fireplace has a direct connection to the Ministry you see,” she explains as if I had not been told twice already. “This way we can avoid all the… Well, you know,” she shrugs. The flames turn green as she throws in a handful of floo power. “Ministry of Magic, London,” she states before nudging me into the fire. The flames immediately engulf me and within moments, I am standing in the packed hallway of the Ministry of Magic as Mrs Weasley floos in behind me.
Witches and wizards pass me by without even a glance, intent on their own business. Mrs Weasley beckons me and I follow behind her, her heals clicking on the dark, polished, wooden floor. Before us is a large set of golden gates which lead to a selection of lifts. We enter one and the moments later, the grills slam shut and the lift begins to move. My hand automatically reaches for one of the hanging ropes to keep myself steady.
After several juddering halt and countless people streaming in and out of the lift, Mrs Weasley finally gestures for me to exit. We are on Level Two. I follow as she leads us to a door with a plaque that reads: Wizengamot Administration Services. We step inside and Mrs Weasley is greeted by several witches who appear to be sorting through tedious amounts of paperwork. Mrs Weasley goes to speak quietly to a man with a long, grey beard for a couple of minutes as I stand to the side, pretending to watch the witches at work whilst the images of a smile flicker across my glazed over eyes.
“Vivian,” Mrs Weasley murmurs. “The trial begins in ten minutes, would you like to go down now or wait here for a while longer?” she asks and I glance around at the nosy witches.
“I’ll go down now,” I reply, my voice monotonous.
The courtroom is dimly lit by torches mounted on the stone walls. In the middle of the circular room is a solitary chair, currently unoccupied. People are beginning to fill the empty spaces and Mrs Weasley is fumbling nervously in the seat beside me.
“You know you do not have to do this Vivian,” she mutters for the hundredth time. I do not reply. A movement catches my eyes as the door opens once more and a handful of people enter and sit across the room from me. My eyes pass over Mr and Mrs Potter and come to rest on their son. As I look at him, I notice the absence of fluttering in my stomach that used to accompany the sight of his face. He has not changed much. His hair still falls before his beautiful brown eyes, in desperate need of a trim.
I do not recognise the people who had come in with the Potters but judging by their red hair, I assume they are relatives of Mrs Potter. They take their seats and I cannot help but notice the glaring absence of their second son. He did not come. I did not expect him to.
A man rises and the courtroom falls silent. He greets the court and explains proceedings but I am not listening. My eyes are now fixed on the door in the corner where Mrs Weasley had explained the accused was brought in through. At some signal from the judge, the door opens and I suddenly wonder what in Merlin’s beard I am doing here.
There is a ghastly chill that accompanies the opening of the door and I am reminded that on the other side, a selection of Dementors are hovering. A thuggish looking man walks in with a second following behind him. The second man walks tall, his chin held high and back straight. He takes a seat willingly in the solitary chair and stares directly at the judge.
“Theodore Bartholomew Nott, you have been accused of the heinous crime of murder,” the judge’s voice rings out across the courtroom and I wonder if everyone has momentarily forgotten to breathe… Or if that is just me? The judge rambles on but I choose not to listen. The man sitting in the chair does not break his gaze from the judge’s face. He does not react to a word that is said. He just sits there. Unmoved.
“As witness to this crime, Mrs Vivian Potter is called to give testimony,” the judge declares and a sensation like thick water trickles down my spine. Mrs Weasley gently nudges me and I rise and make my way to the empty stand. I can feel the eyes of the entire courtroom on me. All but one. The man in the chair does not even blink.
“Could you state your name, age and occupation to the court please,” a woman’s voice asks.
“Vivian Iris Potter,” I state, ignoring the pangs brought on by both my middle and last name. “Aged sixteen. Student.”
“And where exactly where you on the 19th of October 2022?”
“At my house,” I reply mechanically. There was a brief murmur at my choice of words but I could not help myself. It was not a home. It never had been a home. It was just a house in which I lived. I currently have no home.
“And could you explain to us what happened on that day?”
“I received an unexpected visit from my parents. We argued. My father grabbed a hold of me. My mother tried to pry him off me. My father got angry and sent a silent curse at her. Then my father was stunned by Albus Potter who just arrived at the house. I was momentarily knocked unconscious through a lack of air and the fall to the floor.” I explained, my entire being void of emotion.
“Okay… Could you tell us what you were arguing about?”
“My father asked why he could not go into the sitting room. I said because the door did not open. He asked why. I said it was because the sitting room was Albus’ room. He asked why Albus did not share a room with his wife. I said it was because he had seen another man kiss me. My father was angry at my infidelity.” I fix my eyes on a single stone on the wall opposite me and force myself not to look at where James is sitting with his parents.
“So your father grabbed a hold of you?”
“And your mother tried to pry him off you?”
“Could your father have not been acting in self-defence when he sent a curse to your mother?”
“No. My mother was harmless. Her wand was still in the inner pocket of her robes. She could not have got to it in time.”
“And you say the curse was silent? How do you know what it was?”
“It was silent and I do not know what it was. I just know it killed my mother.”
“Could your momentary lapse into an unconscious state not have impaired your memory of these events?”
“I became briefly unconscious after the events occurred. I have provided my memory as evidence.”
“Okay, I have no further questions,” the woman says. I step down from the stand and return to my seat where Mrs Weasley reaches out and squeezes my arm in what is no doubt meant as a comforting gesture. There is a moment of silence before the judge speaks again.
“As a second witness to this crime, Mr Albus Potter is called to give testimony.” I blink up in surprise as someone moves from behind me to the stand. I though he had not come. He stares straight ahead in much the same way as I had just done.
“Could you state your name, age and occupation to the court please,” the woman asks again.
“Albus Severus Potter, aged sixteen, student,” he states clearly and at the sound of his voice, my innards contort. I have not seen him since he brought me to his house. When Mrs Potter told me, I blanked out before panicking. She gave me a calming draught as she was worried for the baby and sent me to bed. Albus took me to his room, helped me change out of my robes and gave me an old shirt of his to wear. By this point I had been almost asleep as a result of the calming potion and he had had to tuck me into bed.
Before he left, he placed the softest of kiss on my forehead. I have not seen him since. I woke up the following morning numb and hollow.
“And could you tell the court what you saw on the 19th October 2022?”
“I arrived at my house after taking a walk to find my father-in-law pinning my wife to the panels of the staircase. His wife was trying to pull him off of their daughter. He had a wand in his hand and before I could reach for my own, he fired a spell at his wife. I immediately stunned him. Both he and his daughter fell to the floor.”
“And then what happened?” the woman asks when it is clear Albus will not go on. I could not help but notice that he too had called it a house rather than a home. And he had referred to me as his wife. If only once.
“I sent a Patronus to fetch my father,” Albus states coldly.
“You just sent a Patronus? After watching a woman die and your own wife being pinned to a wall and consequently falling to the ground, you were able to conjure a Patronus?” the woman asks cynically.
“No. I had to make sure she was alive first,” Albus says clearly, although his voice is so quiet that had anyone else been talking, they would not have heard him.
“But Mrs Nott was dead?”
“I meant Mrs Potter,” he glares at the woman with a coldness that scares me and it takes me a moment to realise he is talking about me. He needed to know I was alive.
“Of course my wife!” he hisses.
“And your father came?”
“And then what?”
“He told me Mrs Nott was dead and to take her daughter to my mother.” I could not fail to notice how he avoided saying my name.
“And you did?”
“Thank you, I have no further questions.” The woman sits down and Albus leaves the stand. He does not glance in my direction as he stares in front of him as he walks back to his own seat. My eyes do not leave his face until he is behind me.
Several other people are called to the stand including a Mediwizard who confirms that my mother died from the spell cast by Mr Nott’s wand and not from the fall to the floor which had only bruised her head slightly. As last, just when I think things are over, the judge turns his attention to the man in the chair.
“You are Mr Theodore Bartholomew Nott, correct?” he asks.
“I am,” the man replies.
“How old are you?”
“And your occupation?”
“Obliviator, Ministry of Magic.”
“And did you fire the curse that killed Mrs Iris Esmee Nott?”
“I did.” The courtroom feels like it is holding its breath.
“Did you intend to kill Iris Nott?”
“But you fired the curse?”
“Were you aware of what the curse did?”
“I was not thinking about what curse it was. I just wanted her off me.”
“Was it an act of self-defence?”
“Mr Nott… Did you love your wife?”
“Did you want her dead?”
“Did you kill her?”
“How do you plead to the charge of murdering Iris Esmee Nott on the 19th October 2022? Guilty or not guilty?”
The entire room fix their eyes on the man in the solitary chair. At last, he turns away from the judge. His eyes move across the crowd of faces and come to rest on mine. As my eyes lock with my father’s, I can see the answer in his murky grey eyes.
“Guilty,” he says aloud but I can tell the word was only meant for me. At last, he turns back to the judge. “I plead guilty.”
That night I dream of my parents. My father has been sentenced to thirty-seven years in Azkaban and I have no intention of visiting him. His eyes will always haunt me though. When he looked at me as he pleaded guilty. He knew that, had he tried, he could have gotten a lesser sentence; he could have taken the defences of loss of control, provocation, self-defence. But he chose prison. He chose it because he knew that he deserved it. He had killed the only woman who had ever truly loved him. He had killed the only woman he had ever loved.
My dreams consist of memories from my childhood, where my parents are still young and that air of newlyweds still clings to them. They are always smiling. It is hard, as their happy faces replay in my mind, to remember what has happened. To realise that I will never see them smile those discreet smiles at each other that they thought I never noticed. It breaks my heart every time I come back to reality.
I am restless, waking up constantly during the night. The bed beside me is empty and somehow, I feel the emptiness even more than I did back at the other house. Maybe it is because this is Albus’ bed. He should be in it.
After the trial, I came straight back to the Potters’ home but Albus did not come. I did not expect him to. I betrayed him. James came though, I stayed upstairs. I did not want to face him. He was arguing with his mother. I blocked out their words. I block out a lot of things lately.
As the dawn creeps over the horizon, I give up on sleep and get up. Not wanting to wake anyone, I cast a silencing charm before getting in the shower and letting the water wash my dreams away. I do not know how long I stand there but only when my stomach starts to protest do I turn off the water and get out.
Mrs Potter has left a set of black robes out on the chair in Albus’ room which I begrudgingly climb into. I then make my way to the kitchen. To my surprise, there is already somebody else awake at this unreasonable hour. They are sitting with their back to me, a large dressing gown covering their pyjamas and a cup of steaming tea in their hands.
I make to turn around and go upstairs again when they speak.
“You cannot avoid me forever Vivian,” James sighs without even turning around and a pang of guilt shoots through my chest. I have not actually spoken to James since the end of summer. No one mentions him around so I have no idea what he has been doing for the past few months. I remember the blonde girl who came to my door one day telling me to end things with James. I wonder if she is a part of his life and if so, how big a part.
“It was not intentional, forgive me,” I mutter quietly, remaining in the doorway.
“Sit down,” he points to the chair across from him and waves his wand so that the tea pot begins pouring me a cup of tea. I oblige and take a seat. “I would ask how you are but I am guessing the answer is ‘pretty shit’ so we’ll just forget that.”
“How are you though?” I cannot help but ask.
“I’ve been better,” he replies, staring into his mug. “I never understood Divination,” he mutters more to himself than to me before putting the mug down and looking at me. “I just wanted to say sorry.”
“Yes. What I did… it was out of order. Especially after I told you to give Al a chance. I just… There is something about you Vivian Iris that enraptures me.”
“I was to blame too James,” I say softly as a cup of tea comes floating over to me. “Sometimes I think that all this – you, Al, my parents – sometimes I think it is all my fault but then I have to remember that while parts of it are my fault, I cannot control the world around me and sometimes, life hands you shit and you just have to make the most of it.”
“I mean it James. Right now I am not in a good place. But I have to believe that it won’t always be like this, that one day, somehow, things will be better. The pain of what my father did will never really leave me but I will have to learn to live with it. That’s why days like today are so important, it gives us some finality, a chance to say goodbye…” my voice has practically lowered to a whisper.
“I’ll be there today too,” he murmurs. “Lily said you weren’t sure if you were going to go…”
“I wasn’t sure… but your mother said that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I don’t go and I am beginning to understand what she means. I owe it to my mother to be there, as her family… I know she will be watching over me from wherever she is. I need to be strong James. I need to be strong for her and for myself.”
“You don’t always have to be strong Viv, sometimes you’re allowed to crumble. You cannot keep everything bottled up forever, it’s not healthy.” James reaches out a hand to rest on top of mine. His touch is comforting in itself. But somehow it is not the touch I want.
“James?” I sigh. “Tell me what’s going on in your life at the moment,” I ask, needing a change of subject.
“My life? Not a lot, me and Fred have officially taken over Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes from Uncle George. Fred has some seriously insane ideas but I think a couple of them might actually work. Other than that, it’s a bit crappy to be honest. I didn’t get the NEWT levels I wanted, not that it matters because I have the shop, but I still would have liked to have done well. Family life is… tense. A friend of mine is severely depressed and I’m worried about her. My cat died the other day and to top it all off, one of my best mates knocked up his girlfriend. So yeah- Shit, Vivian, I’m so sorry,” he rushes when I collapse onto the table in silent sobs. I cannot help it. The sound of his chair scraping across the floor follows and he is immediately by my side, awkwardly trying to comfort me. I turn my face into his chest and he manages to hold me steady as I let out a series of dry sobs. “Oh Merlin, I wasn’t thinking, I’m sorry,” I mutters in my ear while stroking my hair soothingly. “Al? Fuck-”
My head jerks up at Al’s name and I am just in time to see the end of someone’s robes whip around the corner and out of slight. Merlin hates me.
Okay, so this chapter was not at all what I had planned but it just sort of came to me. It's horribe, I know. Sorry. Your thoughts will be much appreciated and sorry about the wait, I was having major writers block and my other story, Second Choice, need some serious attention. But here we are, thanks for reading,