"I wish to admit a bias to the court," he rasped. Despite his advanced age, his gaze was sharp. "And my intent to abstain from voting. Let it be known that I, Tityus Horatio Umbell, am related by blood to Cicuta Sigyna Bulstrode, nee Umbell. Her date of death was August 15, 1997."
He coughed. "I am not overly acquainted with the Umbell side of the family, my father having died young and left me in the care of my Grubbly relatives. That said, I have had the chance to review what little evidence remains from the suspicious circumstances of her death."
"Mr. Graves, I ask you candidly, were you under a direct order to murder Mrs Bulstrode from the Death Eaters? And if not, what exactly were the circumstances of her death, and your responsibility for those events?"
Paul shivered and clenched the arms of the chair in which he sat, for a moment. Then he looked directly up at the elderly judge and spoke to him.
"Yes, sir. I was directly and solely responsible for Mrs. Cicuta Bulstrode's death. I did not receive orders to kill her from the Death-Eaters." He let out a breath. "She came to visit me the night of 15th August so that the two of us could negotiate the terms of a handfasting contract between my family and hers. We spent several hours negotiating those terms but finally settled on an agreement that we both considered equitable. We signed the handfasting contract, and I expected her to leave immediately, at that point, as the hour was very late.
"But Cicuta did not get up to leave. Instead, she removed from her purse a second document and told me she expected me to sign it." Paul hesitated. "That second document was a blood-oath contract of fealty to the Dark Lord, binding upon myself and my descendants in perpetuity, I believe, as there was no sunset clause in the contract.
"I refused to sign it." Paul grimaced. "And I...told her why. I was incensed--and...frightened. Bad enough that I was trapped in the whole business, but I couldn't allow my family to be trapped, as well. Nor could I permit her to leave, for she would simply report me as a traitor to the others.
"I considered simply obliviating her and destroying the fealty contract, but I didn't know who she had already informed of her plan. For all I knew, she might have done it on someone else's orders, to test me. Obliviating her would have been as much an admission of my disloyalty as merely not signing the contract would have been." Paul closed his eyes for a moment.
"So I prevented Cicuta from leaving and...killed her with a lightning spell." He gazed back up at Judge Umbell. "They respect cut-throat measures far more than gentler ones, sir. Having killed Cicuta and acted the part of the offended high-ranking inner circle member, I bought my family and myself more time. But it was at a terrible cost."