Written by TenthWeasleyWriter and beta'd by aiedailweasley.
The night after Barty had cast the Dark Mark found him once more under his father’s control, hidden under his cloak and struggling against the equally invisible bonds of the Imperius Curse. No matter how much he pushed, struggling to break free, he remained forever weaker than its spell. His father had become used to his efforts by now; he stood by the stove, stirring something in a black pot, and maintained a façade of perfect ignorance.
He did not hear the footsteps approaching the door, as Barty did.
The door was blasted off its hinges without introduction, and father was not as prepared for the explosion as son; the pot was knocked off the stove, clattering to the floor and spilling its boiling contents across the tiles. He yelled in both pain and fright as a lumpy figure emerged from the night outside, wand held aloft. Barty recognized Peter Pettigrew – and as his eyes focused on the bundle of black cloth in the man’s arms, the snake on his arm twisted briefly.
“Remove the curse, Wormtail,” rasped the cold, high voice of Lord Voldemort. He seemed to know where Barty was, and what bonds he’d been placed under, without having to be told. Barty’s eyes gleefully darted over to his father moments before he felt a wonderful, liberating sensation swoop through his bones, as it had during the World Cup when he’d gazed at Aurora from afar. He stood up and cast off the cloak eagerly.
“My lord,” he murmured, crossing to Pettigrew and kneeling before the small, decrepit being in that man’s arms. Barty Crouch Sr. was still quivering on the floor by the spilled dinner, arms over his head. His son sneered at such a display of cowardice and turned his attention back to his master.
“We have need of your services, Crouch,” Voldemort said in the same imperious voice; throughout it all Pettigrew had remained still and statuesque, a chance bystander of the occurrences before him.
“Anything,” Barty simpered, overcome with the delirium of freedom. “Tell me what to do, my lord, and I will do it.” He thought he saw the tiny form of Voldemort smirk slightly, though the grimace seemed to cause him great effort.
“Tell me, Crouch,” said the feeble creature, “what you know of the Triwizard Tournament.”
The night was cool, remarkably cool for late August, and Barty was almost sorry he didn’t have an excuse to stay out in it longer than he did. But what the Dark Lord had told him to do was far more important than the weather, and he needed all his wits about him to accomplish it; they had become far too dull in the time he’d spent under his father’s watch.
The front door to Alastor Moody’s house was locked with almost childish simplicity. Barty had to laugh, knowing the Auror’s reputation for paranoia, and wondered how on earth he could have installed a lock that was so easily tampered with by dark magic. It swung inward on its hinges noiselessly, and Barty stepped cautiously onto the threshold, awaiting an alarm or some notification of an intruder’s presence. None came – the powerful precautionary enchantments the Dark Lord had placed upon him held well against Mad-Eye’s own magic.
Once inside, his bedroom was not difficult to find, upstairs and to the left on the landing. The old man was sleeping stiffly, and from beneath a slightly bulging eyelid Barty could see that Mad-Eye infamous electric blue eye was darting about madly. He gave an involuntary grimace of disgust right as the eye seemed to stop on him. The man’s eyes flew open.
Wordlessly, before Moody could sit up in bed, Barty pointed his newly-fashioned wand at him; thick black ropes sprang from its tip and bound him hand and foot, a final rope snaking across his mouth and rendering him mute. Both of his eyes conveyed simultaneous fear and hatred, and even shame at letting himself be caught unawares. It was the shame that fueled Barty most of all.
“You’ve let your guard down, Moody,” Barty laughed sourly, intoxicated with a sudden surge of power. He reached over and grabbed a handful of the coarse, grizzled gray hair on Moody’s head and yanked; the man’s eyes widened again, this time in pain. Barty examined it, smirking, and pocketed the hair in his robes. It would be needed later.
“Care to take a little trip?” Barty laughed roughly again, anxious to get back to his master. He jerked Moody’s elbow and, pocketing his wand now, turned on the spot. The Auror and the Death Eater vanished.
“I still don’t quite understand how you failed to recognize his deception,” said the Grey Lady delicately, shaking her head. “Alastor Moody is a great Auror, so different from everything He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-“
“You must call him by his proper name, my dear spirit. He has never had any power over you.”
She paused, as though remembering something, and began again. “Different from everything – Voldemort – stood for. How could somebody not notice that Barty was…?” She trailed off, at a loss for how to end the query.
“Barty Crouch is also a great wizard,” Professor Flitwick pointed out, pausing to adjust the hem of his robes, which had become caught in a twisted piece of a fallen torch bracket. The ghost nodded and turning to gaze out a nearby window. People were still milling over the grounds, continually trying to repair the perils that had befallen the castle in the recent battle.
“But to think of all the harm he could have caused if we hadn’t stopped him in time…” she whispered, more to herself than to her companion. “Surely, Filius, there was nothing brave or courageous or true in that.”
“But you are missing the very point, Helena. He could have killed Harry Potter, but the lessons he taught him under a false name might very well have saved the boy’s life…”
Barty leaned forward in his chair, watching the sixth years file out of his classroom, all much more subdued than normal. The reaction had been the same each day that week after the lesson, but they needed to know. The Unforgivable Curses, well – those were spells they’d probably need to have extensive knowledge of in the years to come, if his side had anything to say about it. Although this lot had taken it rather better than that fourth year Longbottom. Barty hadn’t made the connection that this was Frank and Alice’s son until the boy had nearly had a fit in class. Still, it was something he needed to know – something he needed to be aware of.
The Foe Glass to Barty’s left shimmered slightly, as though it had caught the light from a nonexistent candle, and his eyes swiveled to it – he still wasn’t used to Moody’s magical eye, it felt all wrong. It was like it knew the person currently wearing it was not its true owner, and wouldn’t work right for him. He scanned the vague and misty shapes in the glass, but all appeared to be relatively normal.
Things had been progressing as smoothly as could have been hoped – it had been tricky, getting Potter’s name into the cup, with all the watchful eyes, but people trusted Alastor Moody. They knew he was a great Auror. And as long as Barty was able to maintain his disguise, there was no reason why his plan should fail.
He winced, stretching out his wooden leg and trying to massage some feeling back into the stiff joint. How that old codger managed this day in and day out, he’d never know. Bloody uncomfortable – although granted, it was nothing compared to having to hide under an invisibility cloak day in and day out.
But he’d been on that stupid leg all day, walking back and forth between the students, putting the Imperius Curse on them time and again, watching them fight it… And slowly, slowly, he was gaining their trust. The plan was, for now, working.
His mind drifted, not unsurprisingly, back to the Potter boy. He’d fought it well – very well, especially for a fourteen-year-old wizard. Something about that unnerved Barty as nothing else yet had this year. He allowed himself to think for the briefest of moments if perhaps, just perhaps, the Dark Lord might have underestimated him…
But that was impossible. He was a child, a mere child. And no child was going to be able to stop the return of the most powerful wizard who had ever lived.
He was pacing again, up and down the floors of the darkened office, the night having long since fallen, but lighting a candle was the furthest thing from Barty’s mind. He dropped into the chair and almost unconsciously reached for his hip flask, taking a long draw, not even shuddering at the Polyjuice Potion’s vile consistency anymore.
He had less than two months – less than two months, and the Dark Lord would return and he, Barty, would be rewarded for all he had done.
Things had become more and more tense as the year and the tournament had gone on, and it had been increasingly difficult to keep Potter a front runner. None of the other champions were stupid, that much had become apparent right away, and it was only lucky that the boy had brains as well. But even with those brains, Barty had almost had to lead him along, from giving broad hints about his skills on a broom to priming that house elf with clues about the gillyweed. It was all so carefully laid out, painstakingly formulated, and nothing could go wrong. He was in too deep for that.
There was a sudden roar of green flames in the previously vacant fireplace, and Barty jumped, whirling about and nearly staggering over on his bad leg. The head of Peter Pettigrew was sitting in the fire, looking extremely agitated about something; it kept biting its lip and blinking its watery eyes. Barty shuffled over.
“Your father -” Wormtail squeaked, evidently being prompted by someone unseen. “Planning to confess – must stop him – headed to the Forbidden Forest – go quickly.” His eyes looked at something on his end of the fireplace, and he gave a small whimper before his head vanished with a pop. It had all happened so suddenly that Barty had barely had time to process the information. And slowly, painstakingly, his mind ground into gear.
Somehow his father had escaped the bonds that the Dark Lord had placed on him, and was planning to confess. Confess what, Barty was not explicitly sure, but he was sure it would do him no favors. He swore loudly, his heart beginning to beat erratically somewhere inside his rib cage, and he limped over to the desk as fast as Moody’s false leg would allow him. He rummaged in it, upsetting an ink bottle in his haste, and removed the parchment he was looking for.
What exactly this map was, where it came from, he had no idea. Fortune had smiled upon him when he’d managed to confiscate it – or, rather, find it, if technicalities were to be included in the consideration – and that was all that matter to him. His eyes roved over it, searching for the dot he hoped he wouldn’t see…
But there it was. A small ink blot on the outskirts of the crudely drawn castle, clearly labeled Bartemius Crouch.
Time was precious, and he needed every second if he was going to beat Dumbledore down to the grounds – nothing ever escaped that mad old man for long. It was fortunate that the corridors of the castle were as deserted as they were, and Barty met no one in his laborious walk through the castle, out the doors, and down the sloping grounds, his wand still dark and at his side, the parchment crumpled slightly inside a concealed pocket of his cloak.
A moving, shadowed figure was pelting up in the direction Barty had just come from, and he stepped quickly into deeper shadow so as not to be seen himself. He watched with incredulity as Potter himself sped past, a look of mingled panic and fear on his face, and Barty knew he’d found his father. His heart gave a nasty lurch. He had to hurry. Checking to make sure the coast was clear, he stumped off toward the trees Potter had emerged from, still staying close to the deepest of the nighttime shadows.
There were two figures at the edge of the forest – one more than he’d anticipated. They were both low to the ground, one appearing a bit more steady than the other. He could guess which one was his father. Barty inched forward, hands closed tightly around the wand at his hip, and soon the strains of the voice of Viktor Krum could be made out through the darkness.
“Erm… Mr. Crouch… ve’ll get you help… Harry vill be back soon…” He sounded a bit tense, and at a complete loss as to what to say. As Barty inched forward, making as little noise as possible in the grass, he could see his father’s face for the first time in months. A wave of resentment coursed through him, and he had to remind himself to stay his temper. Not yet.
He lifted his wand and pointed it wordlessly at the boy; Krum never saw it coming. In a flash of red light, he toppled over and fell into the grass, completely knocked out. He checked briefly to make sure the Stunning Spell had worked before he crossed to his father, who was speaking in a garbled voice to the nearest tree. Barty’s upper lip curled in disgust.
“Hello, Father,” he whispered, raising his wand. There was a flash of green light – not another word was spoken, no words were needed - and Bartemius Crouch was dead at the hands of his own son.