The Sugar Quill
Author: Hazelle (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Victims  Chapter: Default
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The Victims

 

By Hazelle

 

 

The Victims, as I called them, used to come and go all the time. I would just sit there, watching the events on Earth unfold before me, and there would be another one beside me. Some of them watched me expectantly, looking confused. Some looked like they couldn’t believe what was happening. Yes, you’ve died! I felt like shouting at them as they peered at me, waiting for me to say something. This is why I’m not a Greeter; I have no patience for people who just stare around in disbelief, uncomprehending of what’s obviously just happened to them. I felt terrible, of course, but it’s easier to be annoyed than horrified.

You would have thought that I’d have been more understanding and compassionate towards the ones who were utterly bewildered by their deaths, but I wasn’t. It was always the ones who showed up, looked swiftly to the windows to find out the fate of their fellows that made me ache inside. I knew that they were the fighting Victims. They were the ones who put themselves in the line of fire, trying to do whatever it was that had to be done to buy time, or get out alive. Daring and brave; afraid, but gallantly so. It killed me again and again when they materialized, and immediately knew where they were, but didn’t care at all, as long as they had helped someone else. To them, I wanted to say, Yes, you’ve died. I’m to blame for that.

I was never really a big socializer, though. I never talked to any of the strangers who showed up here in the Life-After-Death, even if it was my son that killed them. Perhaps I should have tried to offer my apologies for their losses, but I knew that it would be meaningless. As if I could even help what Tom did! Still, I’d see the fighters and I’d feel like I was owed a good kick in the rear for bringing such a person as Tom Riddle into the world. 

 When Tom was born, I knew my life had come to an end. Life had made enough of a mockery of me, and to be quite honest, I didn’t care at all what happened in it after I’d gone. My family had disowned me after I’d married Thomas, simply because he was a Muggle. My husband disowned me after learning about my Wizard family. So I just moved on with all that, and disowned my body as well. No one else wanted it, except maybe my little son Tom Marvolo. If I had fought against the end of my life, I know it would have kept on going, and I would have raised Tom myself. If I hadn’t been so selfish, none of these people would have died.

 The worst thing about all of the Victims is remembering every single one of them. It didn’t matter if they were the gawking ones or the fighting ones. I still remember all of them. Lots of times, they came in groups. That was almost as hard as Fighters, because most the time the outstanding resemblances between them could only mean they were related. Whole families, dying on account of my child. Some of them were mere children, too! Tom used to be that small.

 When he was a little boy, I used to watch him. After I died, he stayed in an orphanage in London. It was an awful place for him. Tom was intelligent, reckless sometimes, but overall he was very mature for a child. He had as sharp a tongue as any person I ever knew in my short life, which got him into trouble, but he was still a quiet, brooding sort of a boy. I watched his progress through the years, and I was so excited when he got his Hogwarts letter that I could’ve jumped to the moon and back. Tom belonged in the Wizarding world. In my world.

 Now that I look back, I realize that I was completely blinded by my affection and my pride. Any normal person should have realized that there was something very dangerous in Tom. He was my child, powerful and brilliant, and if he was a bit cynical, it was to be expected. That was what I was like at school. Tom, it transpired, was beyond cynical, though he is still regarded as the most gifted student to pass through the halls of Hogwarts.

In his third year, Tom discovered his Slytherin ancestry, a fact that I was unaware of until my death and he learned enough to discover Salazar Slytherin’s hidden Chamber of Secrets by his sixth year. Thinking that he was doing the will of the powerful and wise, Tom took it upon himself to rid the school of Muggle-borns, just as his predecessor had sworn he would. He killed someone that year. When he was only sixteen years old. Imagine! Children killing other children, my child killing another’s child. The thought of it made me sick, and even worse was the fact that it was my fault for not being there for him. I feel guilty admitting this, but I was glad that Tom’s first Victim chose ghosthood as her eternity. There is no way I could have faced that first Victim in my fresh shock.

It was too hard for me to look at Tom after that. I know he became Head Boy, and I know that he left Britain as soon as he graduated. When finally I plucked up the courage to look back at Tom, he had plunged himself into the world of Dark magic. He studied with the worst wizards to walk the face of the earth, learning illegal curses, drinking lethal poisons and potions, trying to transfigure his person. During his studies, Tom  learned many forms of murder, and had the blood of several hundred Muggles, including his father’s family, on his hands before he’d mastered them. I nearly choked when I first saw him; he barely looked human anymore. The light-starved skin was now frosted white, and the thick, black hair he’d inherited from me had thinned, and was now all but gone. His eyes, deep sea green, like his father’s had been, were now black. Those were not the eyes of a natural human- those haunting eyes of solid black tinged with red. He was only about thirty, but he looked skeletal and disfigured and ancient.

Tom’s life was riveting. I wished I could look away from that horrible figure!  But I couldn’t; my eyes were caught, transfixed on the man whom I had once called my son. He started out recruiting supporters in various European countries, giving lectures and insisting that the pure-blooded community follow him as he took control of the government. Most people thought this meant he was running for Minister of Magic as a Purist, but I could see the whole story from my little window on the world. By the time the public realized what Tom was really after, he had already begun to pick off his political enemies.

Tom’s first victim, Ludevune Ernig, former political activist and Daily Prophet columnist appeared out of thin air, right next to me, still in his night clothes. His jaw was dropped, and it dropped even wider as he blinked around. Definitely a Gawker, but I felt a huge surge of anger and shame to see him there when I had just watched my son kill him. I’d known Tom would go after this fellow first; he was very outspoken against the rise of Purism, and took the battle against my son’s ideas to a personal level after Tom revealed his master plan– the purge of all Muggles and Muggle-borns.

“I-I-I-” he’d stuttered finally, managing at last to close his mouth. “Why, that murderous crook!”

Then he noticed me. I was just sitting there in my chair, looking down on the world, where Tom was basking in his glorious victory, servants at his side. With his main opponent out of the picture, it would be considerably easier to climb the ranks to full power.

“Who are you?” he demanded, his eyes wide and confused, but not without a glimmer of realization. “What are you? Where’s Voldemort?”

I had been debating whether or not to say something when the Greeter arrived. Her name was Irene, and she dealt with most the people from the British Isles back then.

“Hello,” she had said kindly to him, as only a Greeter could. “I’m Irene. What’s your name?”

She knew his name already, but Greeters always let their new charges introduce themselves. It’s supposed to help them adjust to and accept what’s happened to them, though I’m not quite sure how. Just by distracting them, I imagine.

“H-hello,” he responded, looking away from me to the woman in front of him. “I, er, I’m Ludevune, Ludevune Ernig,” he stammered, offering his hand automatically, as I’d seen him do many times before at lectures and debates.

“I’m very pleased to meet you, Mr. Ernig,” Irene replied, firmly shaking his hand with a motherly smile, as if to say this isn’t a dream Ludevune, I’m not a vision.  

Ludevune didn’t appear to see anything as he nodded, bewildered. Still, he seemed to understand most of what had happened.

“That monster!” he growled suddenly, looking around him on the ground like he was searching for something he dropped. “Someone knocked, and it was him! He cursed me! That was an Unforgivable, that was!”

Irene nodded, a sad smile on her face. “I guess you won’t be forgiving him anytime soon, will you?” she said consolingly, patting Ludevune on his shoulder.

Humor seemed the right approach with Mr. Ernig. In spite of his grisly passing moments before, Ludevune smiled weakly and shook his head. “No. I guess I won’t.”

“Good heavens! I have so much to show you! We might not get to all of it unless we leave right now. . .” Irene gave the reluctant man a tiny push forward, and pointed to a door. “We want that one, just there.”

Ludevune, the first Victim to make his way to the Life-After-Death, wandered forward, looking slightly dazed. His green striped pajamas were ruffled looking, and his slippers scuffed along the ground. I could see his body lying on the floor just inside his front door still. It had been hours before anyone found him, his eyes wide and blank, frozen jaw still dropped.

“You can’t just sit here all day, you know,” Irene had told me gently, resting a hand on my shoulder. I pulled my gaze away from Ernig’s lifeless body.

“Yes I can,” I replied indignantly. Since I died when I was only eighteen, I never really had a chance to grow out of my bad attitude.

Irene had sighed, and raised an eyebrow at me. “I don’t know why you would want to sit here all day, watching it all happen. There are going to be more of them, you know. If you just sit here all the time, you’re going to see every single one.”

“So what? It’s my fault,” I scowled. “My son is a murderer. I’ll sit here and watch him if I want to.”

Irene, who was rarely startled by anything had looked very taken aback at my claiming responsibility for Tom. She couldn’t tell if I was being serious or not, I think. I have a reputation for being overly sarcastic, so I didn’t blame her. Irene opened her mouth to say something, but I snickered and turned back to my little window. She took the hint, and left me alone.

   After Ludevune Ernig came a positive flood of Victims. Most of them were middle-aged political figures, wealthy and poor, pure-blooded and not. It didn’t really matter; if they stood in his way, Tom or one of his operatives blasted them to smithereens. I was disgusted. If I hadn’t been dead, I would’ve been sick to my stomach. Thinking about it still makes me nauseous.

Every one of those poor, baffled, bewildered and otherwise confounded Victims showed up in various states of shock. They’d look wildly around them, not daring to believe that what had just happened to them was reality. Some of them would rush up to me and demand to know what was going on, or try to warn me that there was something dangerous going on. They had noble enough intentions, and they certainly had justified questions, but I started to get overwhelmed with all of them. They were all alike. All were painfully connected to the anti-Purists, or, as I fondly called them, the “anti-You-Know-Who brigade”.        

People had been afraid to speak Tom’s sobriquet, Voldemort, long before the fighters began to file in by the handfuls. There had been an odd one here and there among the politicians and the writers and the unsuspecting Muggle-borns, but I didn’t really see the difference in the Victims until the fighters were outnumbering the gawkers. I could almost always tell which person would be a fighter and which would be a gawker, just by watching them. It was really strange, how I spent my time then. I can see anything, anywhere on Earth, and as soon as Tom had picked his next Victim, he’d stalk them like animals. They knew it too, and I would be sitting there, on the very edge of my chair, praying with every fiber of my heart that they’d escape. It was like rooting for Quidditch, in a sick sort of way. Tom always caught his Snitch in the end, though. 

I remember the first time I made the distinction between fighting Victim and gawking Victim. It was a woman, fairly young. A Muggle-born, coincidentally, but that wasn’t why Tom killed her. This woman was working against him, and not publicly so, but she worked with a secret sort of group that was trying to undermine Tom’s supporters. To Tom, it was just a plus that the girl was Muggle-born.  I watched her as she raced through her house, trying to undo a spell that had been cast all around her house that wouldn’t permit her leaving it. She was with her husband, and the two of them were trapped in their bedroom when she finally broke through the Death Eater’s wards.

When Tom found them, the couple was still trying to make the hole large enough to fit a person through it. Without even thinking about it, she had shoved her husband through the gap and turned to face her enemy full on. Just as soon as she had raised her wand, Tom had wiped her life away, and her body fell to the ground, sickly still.

I looked over to the other end of my room, and there she was, hand still raised, but with no wand there. She frowned at her change of scenery, looked at her clenched, wandless hand, spared me a fleeting glance, and rushed to a window.

“Go, run, you idiot, don’t just stand there!” she shrieked, and I could hear the tears in her voice. I knew she was watching exactly the same thing as I was.

          Almost at the same time, we had both gasped in relief, watching as the young man below us continued on his way out of the house, and Apparated away just as a Death Eater pounced on him.

Irene, who was still Greeting people back then, hurried out of the door behind me, and glided up to the young woman who had just sacrificed herself for her husband’s escape.

“Hello,” she said tentatively. “I’m Irene. Can I get your name, please, miss?”

          “My name?” the young woman said vaguely, turning away from her window. “Oh–yes– of course. Dorcas Meadowes.” 

This is where I first came to call them fighters. Dorcas Meadowes had hardly paid any notice to her own death, being only concerned that her efforts had paid off.  Upon assuring herself that her loved one made it to safety, it was business as usual. No crying, no questions, no doubting.

          “Well, Dorcas, I’m the Greeter ‘round here,” Irene said, choosing forwardness as the best tactic with Dorcas Meadowes. “We’ve got a lot to get to for the moment. You can come back just as soon as we are done.”

Dorcas nodded, tucking a loose strand of short brown hair behind her ear. “Let’s hurry, then.”

A true fighter. I could’ve died all over. She was so brave! Why do people like that die? It still doesn’t make sense to me why the truly great people end up here before they should. As Irene took Dorcas to the far door, I had to smother my face with my hands to keep from crying. I never cried, not even when I was alive, and I had every reason to, but just to know that that woman had died because I decided not to live. . . the pain cut through me like a flaming knife.

In the years that followed that, I became aware of every single Victim to pass through this hall. The gawkers began to annoy me, something which I do feel ashamed about- they had just been murdered, I’d remind myself. Then the fighters started to come in twos, threes, fours, whole families, and I didn’t care if some of them started to gawk, for it was my fault there were here.

The first family was such a shock, I thought I was seeing quadruple. Of course, I’d just watched all of them die at the hands of my son and his servants, so I knew that it wasn’t my eyes. There was a woman first, followed by two children, and then a man. They were still positioned just as they had been a mere second ago, with the woman shielding her smaller daughter, the older daughter faced forward with her eyes clenched tight, and the man trying to block all of them from the front. None of them had seen when Tom apparated behind them, and killed them all with one spell.

I watched in horror as they all relaxed and jumped around to stare at each other. The older girl fainted on the spot, and the woman began to cry, hugging her little one close to her. The man bent down and pulled his unconscious daughter upright, looking around him with a tragically defeated look on his face. He knew exactly where he was. He also knew that he hadn’t been able to save anyone in the process, and it looked supremely painful for him to be sitting there in the Life-After-Death, surrounded by his family.

Irene came tearing out of the usual door, appearing flustered and upset. She had been just as put out by the family’s murder as I had, though she certainly couldn’t have claimed any fault in it.

“Good heavens!” she exclaimed, hurrying to help the man wake his daughter. “That happens, sometimes, it won’t be a problem,” she assured him, gesturing to the girl, who opened her eyes then.

“It shouldn’t have had to happen at all,” the man muttered hollowly, his head dropping. “They’re only children!”

“Don’t blame yourself,” Irene had told him, patting him gently on the shoulder. “Now, this is a rare and saddening occurrence. Please, can I have all your names? I’m Irene, by the way, I’m your official Greeter.”

It seemed talking was Irene’s way of dealing with this. She just kept rambling, and if it was a comfort to her or to her charges, I couldn’t exactly tell. Both parties seemed exhausted and depressed.

“Bones. Edgar Bones. This is my wife, Carmen, and my daughters, Emily and Rosalina.”

Irene nodded, knowing all of this already, but looking as though she wasn’t even aware that Edgar Bones was speaking English. “Come with me. We’ll need to talk to someone about this.”

They all left. That was the last time Irene Greeted anyone, I’m pretty sure. I don’t blame her at all for resigning. Greeters are supposed to be the ones to talk others through their tragedies, and the whole system is ruined as soon as the Greeter lets him or herself be affected. There were two other Greeters after Irene. No one liked dealing with European countries anymore, because the death toll was always rising, and people were dying in increasingly hideous ways.

Pretty soon, every day a new victim of Tom would come through. Pretty much all of them were fighters, and didn’t notice the sullen eighteen year old girl in hospital robes who was watching them. Some days, I didn’t even watch the Earth, I simply sat and waited for more Victims to show up. It became a habit, I guess, to sit there and inspect the people who were dead on my account, at the hands of my unloved little Tom.     

 People I’d known in life sometimes came to visit me after they died. I saw my best friends from school. I saw my grandmother, the lone member of my family who would consent to visit me since I’d not only betrayed the family line, but also brought fear and death upon the whole Wizarding world. They all asked me why I didn’t go try and do something cheerful and fun. Apparently, being dead means you also get to have a blast, but I didn’t want to. I couldn’t explain to them why I preferred to watch the disasters go on below. They all thought I was being ridiculous, trying to blame myself for Tom’s actions. None of them realized that I’d made the choice to abandon him to a cold, cruel world where he’d never know love, compassion, and normality. None of them knew that I’d made that decision, knowing that he would probably end up being problematic and awful, and accepting that as long as I could escape my own horrible world.

It was fresh after one of my grandmother’s visits, actually, that the strangest thing happened to me. She had been trying to convince me to go with her to see my old school Headmaster, but I declined, telling her that I was busy watching Tom. In truth, I hadn’t watched Tom in a while, and had just been waiting for more of his Victims to appear so I could wallow in my misery some more. I peered out my window uninterestedly, so I could assure myself that I hadn’t lied to Gran, and I saw, to my dismay, that Tom was after someone at that very moment.

The young couple was hurrying around in a panic as Tom made his way through their house. I realized at once that this wasn’t their first encounter with my son. I’d watched him hunt them at least twice, I was sure. As far as I could tell, there weren’t any Apparition wards on their house, and I slid forward in my chair automatically, chanting in my head Get away, get away, get away!’ The husband was shouting words I couldn’t hear to his wife, and I watched her as she hesitated, then sprinted up the stairs, and into a nursery.... No wonder they wouldn’t Apparate, they had a baby upstairs.

My eyes were attracted back downstairs, where flashes of light were smashing up the small kitchen. That man would be a fighting Victim, I could tell already. Not many people actually took Tom on, and when they did, it usually didn’t last for more then two exchanges: one of theirs, and one of Tom’s. This fellow was doing quite a good job dodging the curses, but Tom was quite literally impossible to hit. In the blink of an eye, the man was dead. Just as I predicted, he materialized at the other end of my room, and rushed to a window.

“RUN!” he bellowed, like they all did. New Victims usually take a while to figure out that they can’t hear or be heard on Earth from the Life-After-Death. “Run, Lily, no what are you-?!” He stopped shouting, and buried his face in his hands, knocking sliver framed glasses askew. I snapped my attention away from him, and my heart fell when I figured out what was happening. The woman had found her child, and Tom had found them both. He had her wand, now, and was trying to shove her aside. That was baffling to me; I’d never seen Tom turn down such an easy kill. What was this woman doing? Tom was offering her a way to escape; she could have easily Apparated if she let him toss her to the ground, as he was attempting to do. Finally, as though in slow motion, Tom turned his wand on her, and the woman was dead before she hit the ground.

I turned mournfully away from my window. There she was at the end of the hall, looking shocked, but not confused. She rushed to the side of her husband at the window. They stared out, and I knew they were looking down at their son, just as I looked down at mine. The only difference was that they were waiting for their son to join them.

The woman had been shaking, and her husband put an arm around her shoulder. I looked away from them, remembering with a jolt what it had felt like to have someone comfort me like that. They didn’t notice me there, thankfully, and I stared out the window and back into their house, knowing from Tom’s wand position that the little baby would be joining his parents in this room soon. How very mistaken I was.

The flash of green light burst from Tom’s wand. The flash of green light glanced off the baby. The flash of green light hit Tom square in the chest, and the house exploded. I leapt up so quickly that my chair flew backwards several feet with a clatter. The woman screamed, and the man began to gibber.     

“Lily! He’s gone, he’s left!” he cried excitedly. “Did you see that?”

“The house is gone!” the woman shrieked to her husband, not sounding at all excited. “Harry will have died, look at it, James!”

 Even though I was astonished beyond all astonishment, I wondered vaguely where their Greeter was. Then I wondered where their son was. The curse should have killed him, but obviously it hadn’t, which was completely a mystery to me. It had definitely looked like Tom’s favorite Unforgivable, Avada Kedavra, which had never failed before then. If the curse hadn’t killed him, the house’s explosion should have. Yet he obviously hadn’t arrived here. To this day, I have not had my head spin as badly as it did at that moment.

I put a hand to my forehead, and stared down at the clearing dust on Earth where the house had been. There, still in the destroyed nursery, somehow unscathed by the collapse of the house, was a tiny, squirming child, and by the looks of it, he had been screaming at the top of his lungs for several minutes. My jaw fell open. I had been sure that he died, or was about to die at any moment. I stared over at the couple down the hall (whose Greeter was still nowhere to be seen.) The woman was crying into her husband’s shoulder, and he stroked her red hair as he fought his own tears. Neither of them seemed to have noticed the miracle that their son had survived.

Before I could stop myself, I had moved tentatively toward them, feeling like an intruder in their small, saddened world. “Um. . . Excuse me.” The man looked up, his brow furrowed in concern, and the woman peeked over her shoulder, eyes puffed and red. I plunged on, feeling all the more interfering as they looked at me. “Well, you didn’t seem to notice, so I thought I’d just say that… er, your baby’s still alive.”

 I said this all very fast, and they just stared at me like I was mad. I wondered if I was mad. An awkward silence followed my words, and then the woman seemed to come out of her trance. She blinked at me, and ran to a window.

“Harry!” she shouted, leaping up and down like a little kid. “Oh James, he’s- he’s alive!”

 The man joined her at the window, a disbelieving smile flashing across his face. The couple stood by the window, crying from sheer joy and I stood just behind them, wondering their Greeter was.

I felt like the biggest nuisance in the world, just standing there. I cast around for my chair, which had made its way halfway across the room. I started towards it when the woman called out to me.

“Wait! Excuse me, don’t go just yet!”

I stopped, flinching at the prospect of conversation. “Yes?” I said slowly and quietly, as though speaking to a teacher.

She ran over to me, her red hair swishing behind her, her eyes still puffy from crying, but the joy in them unmistakable. “Thank you for telling us,” she said, putting a hand to her chest.

“Oh,” I said blankly. It was a little startling. Victims had never paid me any mind before. “You would’ve figured it out eventually. . .” I trailed off.

She considered me a moment. “Even so. It was a kind gesture. Do you mind if I ask, what’s your name?”

I blanched. If I told her my name, she would know my relationship to Tom. The last thing I had ever wanted was for any of Tom’s Victims to know who I was. She seemed to sense my reluctance, though, and looked extremely apologetic.

“I’m sorry, forget I asked,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m Lily Potter. This is my husband, James.”

James, who had moved to stand close behind his wife, thrust a hand around her for me to shake. I only hesitated for a second, and shook his hand cautiously. He grinned at me. I didn’t see how anyone could be grinning when they’d just been murdered.

“So, what do you call this place?’ he asked, looking around at the doors on the left and the windows on the right, and sounding as though he were simply on a museum tour.

I raised my eyebrow at him. For a fighter, that was a very strange question. I supposed, though, that they all asked that question eventually, even if I wasn’t there to hear it. “The whole thing is just called the Life-After-Death,” I said uncertainly. “But this room is just. . . Well, I don’t know, it’s kind of my room, I guess, no one else visits it much.”

“Why not?” Lily asked me, looking incredulously at the windows. “You can see everything from right here! Who wouldn’t want to see the Earth?”

I have to say, I was very taken aback by these questions. They weren’t dumb questions, like the gawking Victims asked me sometimes. It was as if they thought that I was omniscient about death, or something. Not that anyone had told them otherwise.

“Well, you can see Tom from this room. No one else wants to see him,” I said shyly, and it took me a moment before I realized what I had said.

“Tom. . . Tom Riddle?” James Potter spluttered, and his suspicion had been unmistakable. He rested a hand on Lily’s shoulder, his gaze hard.

“Yes,” I said defiantly. Both of them looked distrustful at that, and I could’ve kicked myself when I realized that they probably thought I was a Voldemort supporter. “I’m not- I mean, I’m not a-a Death thingy,” I stuttered, horrified at the very idea.

“Who are you, then?” Lily asked, tilting her head slightly, and there was something about her tone that made me feel like she already guessed.

“I’m his mother,” I mumbled, staring at my feet and wishing that I hadn’t come here in the first place.

“That thing had a mother?” James asked incredulously. I didn’t wonder at his skepticism.

My short temper had flared at this, however. “Let me rephrase myself,” I replied icily, arms drawn protectively across my chest. “I should have been his mother.”

The Potters stared at me. I stared at them, wondering if either of them was sensitive enough to understand my meaning. Yes, I should have been his mother. I should have loved him, and cared enough to stick around for him. Had I done that, I wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Lily Potter looked sadly at me. “Is that how you died? Giving birth?”

I nodded once.

“I’m so sorry, that’s terrible.”

Without considering what I was saying, or who I was speaking to, I responded, “I didn’t think so.”

James made a face, and Lily blinked. “What?” she said.

For reasons unknown to me, I felt like opening up to this woman. Maybe it was because I hadn’t talked to anyone new in decades, and I was lonely. Maybe it was because she was a fighting Victim, and I felt guilty. Maybe it was because she was a mother who had died young, and I thought I could relate. For whatever reason, I told her my story. I told her about my decision to let myself die. I told her about causing the deaths of countless people, all by abandoning my child to a cruel world that wasn’t his.

I finished my story, feeling like I had just had fifty pounds lifted off my person. Lily looked like someone had petrified her, and James looked like a mixture of sympathy and disgust.

“So I’ve watched him ever since then. And I’ve met all his victims, and now I’ve met you and told you my whole pathetic story, and you probably hate me now.” I looked out my little window that had previously showed the destroyed house with the little boy in it, but which now was showing nothing. It was all black. “My window,” I ended lamely.

James looked at the window again. “Where’d Harry go?”

“It wasn’t Harry’s life we were looking at before,” Lily said faintly as she stared at me. I noticed her eyes were teary again.

“I have to go,” I told her, backing slowly away. “I can’t believe myself. I don’t blame you for not accepting any of my apologies.”

With that, I turned to the nearest door. I didn’t care where it led to; I just wanted to get away from the Potters. Why hadn’t their Greeter showed up?! I’d go give someone at management a piece of my mind, that’s where I’d go.

“Lily, let’s go look for Harry. He’s just down there somewhere, all by himself in a burning house,” James said uncertainly, looking at me like he thought I would bite him or something. How he thought he’d find his way around with out a proper guide is beyond me.

“Alright,” Lily answered, but she didn’t move. “I’ll catch you up in a moment.”

James opened his mouth to protest, and grimaced at the thought of accidentally gushing some more, but Lily waved her husband away and moved closer to me. He seemed to sense that she wanted to talk to me alone, and nodded reluctantly, making his way to a door.

“What?” I asked, trying to get control of myself again. “I’m not a Greeter, I really can’t answer your questions.”

“Greeter? What? Oh, never mind, I just wanted to say,” Lily ran a hand through her hair. “it isn’t your fault, what Volde- what Tom, did.”

   I didn’t believe her. “Of course it’s my fault. I left him alone. That would mess up any kid.”

   Lily looked pained at my words. Everything I said seemed to upset her. I made a mental note to never speak to any Victim again, ever.

“I left Harry alone,” she said slowly. “I’ve left my baby to a world that isn’t kind, and isn’t even his.”

I am sure that I could’ve rivaled any Gawker then. All I could do was stare stupidly at her. I’d seen her death, of course, and I couldn’t imagine what she was talking about. She didn’t run away from Tom, she tried to fight him, tooth and nail, without a wand. It was completely different to be killed in a struggle and leave your child parentless than to let yourself die.

“Harry might be messed up some day,” Lily mumbled, looking at the ground. “There wasn’t anything I could do to keep him from getting hurt, but I can’t blame myself for anything that happens to him after this. I did my best. You did what you had to do, as well.”

“But that’s not the same-” I began.

“Perhaps, but I still see the same thing: Two mothers, dying to give their children life. The deed has been done, and it’s up to them to make the choices, now.” She sighed sadly. “Don’t blame yourself for his wrong choice.”

“You don’t understand,” I said exasperatedly, my temper rising. “I gave up my life so that he would live, but I was saving myself. And I killed thousands with that one selfish, thoughtless decision.”

Lily didn’t raise her voice at all, but she spoke to me so vehemently that my temper was kept in check. “I gave up my life so Harry would live, and I already know that by doing so, I’ve made him a murderer.”

“I’m sure that most orphans don’t turn out to be mass murderers,” I said softly, averting my eyes. “How would you know?”

“A prophecy told me so. It isn’t really important. But Harry will either kill or be killed. So by putting myself in the position to be killed, I saved him, but only for a while. In the end, the choice will be his to die or murder. I only allowed the choice to be possible.” Lily glanced at Tom’s cloudy window, a lone tear trailing down her cheek. “Tom will stop, someday. No one blames you, except you.”

Any words that I could possibly have said after the intensity of hers were lost in my throat. I just stared at her, and hastily tried to wipe away the twin waterfalls drenching face. Lily hugged me, an odd gesture to come from a stranger, and I stood awkwardly in her embrace like a limp fish. 

Lily turned, and headed straight for the door her husband had passed through just moments ago. I stared at my feet, wanting nothing more than to join them on the floor, but years of steeling myself against emotion forced me to remain upright. I heard the door open, and Lily said softly into my room, “You’re a real fighter, you know?”

 

 

 

//
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