Chapter 12 : Barty Crouch Jr.: Broken Promises
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My sear'd and blighted heart hath known,
The highest hope of pride and power,
I feel hath flown. 
"I will be honored beyond all other Death Eaters. I will be his dearest, his closest supporter…closer than a son…" 
The boy is six, with messy blonde hair falling into his handsome brown eyes and his face is pressed against the icy window in eagerness.
"When's father going to be home?" He inquires, releasing his cheek from the glass and turning to look at his beautiful mother.
"I don't know, dear," she replies hesitantly, looking up from her knitting with a tired smile on her pale face. "He must be busy tonight."
The boy's smile falters and he returns his face to the cold glass. "He promised that he'd be home for Christmas! He promised!"
"I know, darling," his mother soothes, setting down her knitting and going over to run a hand through his soft hair. "He'll try his best, I know he will…"
Their antique grandfather clock chimes eleven times and the boy sighs, snuggles closer to his mother and continues his vigilant watch.
There they sit, patiently waiting for the slight pop that would indicate the return of their patriarch. Soon, the boy nods off to sleep – his small head nestling against the crook of his mother's arm. They wait and wait and wait.
An hour passes, perhaps two, and the clock chimes for one o'clock. The tired woman shifts her sleeping child in her arms when their house elf walks into the room.
"Mistress Crouch," she calls, her round eyes searching the darkness for her mistress's form. "An owl pecking on the window, there is…"
"Let him in, Winky," the woman murmurs, her voice growing weaker and weaker and weaker as she picks up her sleeping child and tiptoes towards the brightened kitchen.
Winky snaps her long fingers and the window opens – allowing the small speckled owl into the room. It hoots apologetically, alerting the woman to what lies within the parchment.
"Winky?" She coughs. "Can you take Barty up to his room?" Her fingers tremble as she unties the parchment and silently reads to herself. The letter – no, note, is formal (too formal, it seems) and excuses Barty Crouch, Sr. from returning home. She bites back tears, letting the note flutter to the ground.
Her son's voice comes back to haunt her, his dark eyes (so like her husband's) clouding over with hurt as he insists, "But he promised; he promised; he promised."
The child is eleven (not a child any longer, she notices) with blonde hair slowly turning brown and his dark eyes are hungry for acceptance.
The birthday cake sits, forgotten, in the kitchen as he marches over to the window and stares out into the darkness.
He does not voice his disappointment but his mother can read it all over his impassive face.
"Master Barty," Winky emerges from the second story and pulls at his hand. "You does not want cake, sir?"
"I'll eat when father arrives," Barty stubbornly insists.
Already, so much like his father, his mother realizes sadly. The Hogwarts letter sits besides the cake, also forgotten.
She remembers his blazing look that morning, wanting to tear the letter open and read it over and over – only stopped by his father's leaving for work.
"But, father," young Barty calls out, his lips trembling, "I want to read it with you."
"We'll read it later," his father dismisses.
"You promise?" Young Barty's voice shines with admiration.
"I promise." And without another word, Barty Crouch, Sr. steps out into the entryway and apparates.
The night grows longer and still, the cake and letter are both forgotten as the child fights back the tears that threaten to pour from his eyes.
His mother soothes him, singing a lullaby that always seems to lull him to sleep. Barty's dark eyes blink tiredly and as she runs a hand through his darkening hair, he sighs, "He promised; he promised; he promised."
Barty Crouch Jr. allows his mother to run her hand through his darkened hair and does not fuss when her eyes begin to tear up. The muffled sound of a train is heard as he glances around the station.
"Father said he'd be here." His voice is no longer hopeful and his eyes have become angrier, hungrier for acceptance. "He promised."
"He's been busy with another case. It seems another muggle family has been targeted and attacked." The woman's voice is small and her frame is thinner as she wraps her arms around her eleven year old son, "He'd be so proud of you, Barty…" Tears sting her eyes and he smiles at her (he looks so much like his father, she observes).
"I'll write every day, Mum," he insists, bringing his lips to her cheek. "Don't look so worried." Barty brings his hands up to her face and smoothes her wrinkled brow. "Winky'll take care of you."
"I love you, Barty," she replies as he continues to glance around the platform eagerly. "And your father does too."
An elegant crimson train pulls into the station, its steam obscuring everyone's vision as the woman hesitantly lets go over her son.
"Bye!" Barty's face is alight with excitement, but there's a particular hardness that seems sharpened by disappointment. He climbs aboard the train, settling into a compartment and stares out at his mother, "Bye, mum!" Barty can't help but continue to scan the platform for any sign of his father.
She follows the train as it departs, chugging along slowly as she fights her way through the crowd – desperate to keep Barty in her sight. He has his hand raised in farewell and a smile curls onto his face (although, she notices, his eyes are darkened with defeat).
The Hogwarts Express turns a sharp corner and his face is gone. Her hand is still raised, her lips still curled into a smile.
Her son, her Barty, is gone. He's gone; he's gone; he's gone.
The Great Hall is hushed and many of the First Years tremble with anticipation. Barty pushes his way up to the front, his head held high and his eyes darting around the four house tables. A few students go before him and he watches as a "Byron, Jordan" is sorted into Ravenclaw.
"Crouch, Bartemius Jr.," McGonagall's voice rings out over the quivering First Years and Barty steps up. His fingers twitch with excitement as he sits upon the stool.
Interesting, the sorting hat says into his head, ambitious and bright. You wish to prove yourself…to whom, I wonder, and yet, loyal…
Barty doesn't respond but sits patiently, listening to what the sorting hat announces into his mind.
Deep down, unforgiving and unyielding…I have only witnessed one mind like this before…different than your father and yet, still the same…
At the mention of his father, Barty's shoulders tense and he replies with an icy, I don't ever want to be like my Father.
A sore spot? The hat muses, enjoying himself hugely, you will be great in… and it shouts with a boisterous, "SLYTHERIN!"
Fifteen, a man more than a boy, Barty Crouch sits with his fellow Slytherins inside a large compartment. He's laughing at Regulus's joke and he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror.
The years have darkened the once blonde hair and for a moment, he feels as though his Father is staring back at him. Barty turns away in disgust, his lip curling into a comfortable sneer.
"Something the matter, Crouch?" Rabastan Lestrange notices that Barty's expression has changed.
"Nothing, Lestrange," Barty replies, his features loosening to convey a look of nonchalance, "Just thinking about how dull this holiday's going to be."
"Must be terrible," Regulus comments, his silver eyes settling on his younger friend, "Having a father in the ministry."
Barty shrugs. "Don't give him much thought."
The years have darkened Barty's soul. His admiration for his father has slowly iced to hate and resentment.
"How's your mother?" Snape's voice is soft, but cutting, like a swift sword through the air and Barty's heart softens.
"She says that she's well…" His voice stops abruptly, "I don't believe her." Barty recalls the sound of his mother's coughing – all through the night, coughing and coughing and coughing. He recalls her begging Winky to bring her husband home and how her disappointment was scrawled all over her bony face in the morning.
Again, Barty stops in memory of his father and clears his throat.
Ever since Barty had entered Hogwarts, he had seen little of his father. Even when he returned home for the holidays (on request of his ailing mother), his father would remain at the office – continuing to "work on an important case" (the words of his mother).
The Slytherins begin to taunt each other about holidays until the train arrives at King's Cross and slows to a stop. Barty steps off the train, his eyes scanning for any sign of his mother or Winky. He lugs his trunk off the side and drags it towards a crowd.
"Master Crouch!" Winky's timid and sharp voice catches his attention and he sees her beaming at him.
"Mum didn't come with you?"
"No," Winky shakes her head. "Master Crouch tells Winky, he tells her, Mistress Crouch is very ill and Winky will go meet Master's son at the station!"
"Why couldn't he meet me himself?" Barty asks her, his eyes boring through her skull.
"Master Crouch is busy-busy. He tells Winky that he needs no breakfast and goes to work hungry! But Winky tells him, no, Mistress would not want Master being hungry…"
"Has he been home often?" Barty's annoyance frightens Winky, who shakes her head, "Does he care for Mother?"
"Master Crouch has bought Mistress the best, he sends Winky to buy the best and Winky promises…"
Barty runs a hand through his hair and sighs, "Let's see mother, Winky." She snaps her fingers and his trunk disappears with a pop. He grabs her hand and they apparate home.
"Barty!" His mother's wheezy and tired voice greets him when he walks into the sitting room. She's propped up on two pillows, looking peaky, if not pleased to see him, "I've missed you, my love."
"Mum…" Barty's voice cracks as he notices how pale she looks, "Mum…"
Her lips quirk into a half-smile and such a feat exhausts her greatly, "What's the matter, child? Not pleased to see your mother?"
He rushes to her and gently encloses her into his arms. Barty's lips quiver and tears push against his eyes, threatening to fall.
She's so thin, so frail, so sick… Her eyes seem too big for her face – but underneath the illness, she is still his mother and he still thinks that she's the most beautiful woman in the world.
"You're beautiful, Mum," he whispers, and he refuses to let go, even when her chuckle has turned into a cough.
He gingerly lifts her from her chair and carries her to the sofa. Barty sets her gently beside him and she smiles weakly. "You've gotten so handsome, Barty…"
Barty allows her to gently rake her fingers through his dark hair as he lays his head on her lap. Under her breath, she begins humming the gentle lullaby and he finds that his eyelids are growing heavier and heavier and heavier.
Even though her lullaby is loaded with coughing, he falls into a dreamless sleep and she can't help but cry a little.
He's so handsome. He looks just like his father. She's so glad that he's home that her heart breaks with happiness. Her child, her Barty, has come home to her.
Still coughing, she continues to run her bony fingers through his silken hair. She stoops to plant a kiss on his pale forehead and his eyelids twitch with sleep.
The woman's content. She's content; sitting here, with her son's head in her lap, just stroking his hair, she's happy.
When Barty awakens, he's in his bedroom, sleeping in his bed. The happy feeling he had felt earlier is seemingly gone – it's replaced with a bitter taste that houses itself in the back of his throat. His father's voice is loud, commanding as it demands something of Winky.
His feet take him down the winding staircase and into his father's study. Barty Crouch, Sr. barely registers his son and shuffles past him in a hurry.
"You can't even look at me, Father?" Barty's voice is incredulous, and he feels years of pent up resentment rise into sudden anger, "You won't even greet your own son?"
"I'm busy," his father replies, hastily walking into the archway and reaching out for his hat.
"Your wife's ill," Barty points up towards his mother's room. "She's very, very ill and you've decided to go to work, anyway? Father, the ministry can last a day without you – your wife needs you!"
"She understands." His father's voice is gruff, uncaring as he shrugs and turns to apparate. "Your mother understands my duties…"
"But I don't," Barty shouts. "I don't bloody understand."
Bartemius Crouch, Sr.'s eyes narrow and he pushes his son away from him, "You should understand. They need me. It's for the greater good, son."
Without another word, he turns into the entryway and apparates. Barty falls to his knees and tears begin to fall from his eyes. The greater good; he breaks into sobs, his fist pounding the floor until Winky rushes over to him.
"No, no, Master Barty mustn't do that! Mistress wouldn't want Master to hurt himself!" She grabs both of his hands and stops his pounding but the tears continue to rush down his cheeks.
"A disappointing Father," Barty sobs. "The greater good; the greater good; the greater good…"
From the balcony, his mother holds onto the beam to support herself and tears of regret flow freely down her face. What more could she lose? She has lost a husband to the Ministry – shall she lose her son to his hatred?
Her grip slackens on the beam and her eyes blink blearily as the image of her son begins to fuzz and haze. She crumbles to the ground, much like her family.
Seventeen; feared by some and loathed by others. Barty Crouch is talented (his teachers whisper that they haven't seen such talent and raw ambition since his father) and handsome.
As hard as he's tried, Barty cannot separate himself from his father. He loathes his name – the same name of his disappointing father and he loathes the people that keep his father away from his mother.
Regulus has left Hogwarts – but keeps continual contact with Barty. He has mentioned someone of immense power – someone who is intrigued by a fellow like Bartemius Crouch Jr.
And so, he meets Tom Marvolo Riddle.
Barty is, at first, rather disinterested in what Tom proposes. He expresses unconcern over his ideals and thoughts while Tom grows more and more interested in Barty.
"You and I are quite similar, Barty," Tom's voice is soft, with a slight hissing sound that reminds Barty of a snake. "Both named after disappointing fathers. Both highly skilled in the Dark Arts."
"Is that so?" Barty's nonchalance cracks and he tilts his head to the right, taking in the information presented to him.
"I could empower you, Barty Crouch."
But it was not power that drew Barty to his Master.
"Is that what you truly want?" Tom's eyes glint in the candlelight and Barty silently nods his head, "Then it is yours. However, I ask one small favor in return…"
Barty Crouch bows his head, but lifts his eyes towards his new Master.
"I need your undying loyalty, Barty Crouch. Do you swear it?" Tom's wand is lifted from the table and he points the wand tip at Barty's left inner forearm and waits for his reply.
"Do you promise?" Barty's eyes go to the wand tip.
"Lord Voldemort never breaks his promises," Tom replies.
"I swear it, my lord. I swear to you, my undying loyalty."
Without another word, the wand tip glows and Barty bites back the scream of pain as a skull is embedded onto his skin. When the wand is withdrawn, a snake slowly crawls out from the skull's mouth and pain shoots up his left arm.
"Then, I welcome you, Bartemius Crouch Jr., to our brotherhood – to become a savior of pure-blooded men."
Barty looks up at Tom in admiration. Both, named for disappointing men; both, skilled in the Dark Arts… Tom understands the embarassment. He understands all that Barty's father didn't.
If there was any single way to distance himself from his father's holy name – it was this.
Barty leans back against his chair, his left forearm exposed to the world and he laughs. He laughs manically and lifts up his goblet in an ironic salute to Tom, "To the savior of men, my lord!"
"The savior of men, Barty," Voldemort's lips pull themselves into a sinister smile and they laugh together.
Barty no longer needs his father's acceptance – for he has found acceptance among a group of brothers. Best of all, he grins at Voldemort before bringing the goblet to his lips, he has found someone worthy of his admiration.
Alone in the Crouch Manor, the woman suddenly has a coughing spasm. Winky rushes to her aid and realizes that there is blood coming from her Mistress's mouth.
"I've lost him, Winky," she coughs, bringing a white handkerchief to her crimson lips. "I've lost both of them…" Her eyes fill with tears, "He's gone; gone; gone…"
Now offer'd with the pain
Even then I felt -- that brightest hour
I would not live again:
For on its wing was dark alloy,
And, as it flutter'd -- fell
An essence -- powerful to destroy
A soul that knew it well. 
,  "The Happiest Day" by Edgar Allen Poe; stanzas 1, 5 and 6.
 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (U.S Hardcover), page 678
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