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Chapter 4 : Reaching Out
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Over the next few weeks, Barty and Aurora grew close. Flitwick noted how much time they spent together and how he could never find one without the other's company. Even in class, the duo tried thier best to stay together― Aurora sometimes traded seats with Barty's neighbor.
After class one day, they stuffed their books in their bags and walked out of the classroom, exposing themselves to the fresh air. They stumbled over the hills as they roamed the grounds, gradually making their way to Care of Magical Creatures class. Aurora ran faster, leaping towards the sky whenever an obstacle flew in her way. Barty, on the other hand, looked partially embarrassed. He stumbled on rocks and tree roots, sometimes falling to the ground. Aurora always looked back, offering him a helping hand he gratefully took. They sat down in the usual forest clearing. Other kids were already there, mainly Ravenclaws such as themeselves. A few Hufflepuffs were there as well. The only ones who looked out of place were three kids with maching green and black uniforms. The biggest and toughest-looking guy shoved his way through the students, and his companions eagerly followed. Aurora rolled her eyes.
"That's Avery," she whispered, pointing to the bloke. "He has a skull as thick as a bludger, and a heart cold enough to match."
Barty nodded, watching one of Avery's friends cackle. They looked shrewd and tough... more like hitmen than students.
"That's Mulciber, and Lestrange, I think," she continued. Barty glanced over at them and felt a shock ring through; the one called Lestrange was gazing at him with the faintest hint of a smile on his lips. It looked like he was actually encouraging Barty or something. "It's obvious what they want to be."
"Hmm?" Barty asked. He'd always thought that Aurora was a well-meant girl, if not a little instantaneous. He'd never heard her sound so hateful.
Her gaze hardened as she stared at them. "Death Eaters."
Flitwick rubbed his eyes wearily, the full day of teaching causing unwanted fatigue. He was grading the Third Years' essays on Cheering Charms, and with each tick his quill made, his eyelids closed further.
"Patrick, for the last time, I can't help you!"
The voice had sounded close, and it was a saviour to Flitwick. He grabbed his coat, threw it on him, and saw two boys fighting at the end of the hall. The voice wasn't coming from someone he expected... instead, Barty Crouch was leaning towards Patrick Esling, looking more formidable than Flitwick could ever remember. Patrick stood his own, giving Barty a particularly nasty glare.
"I thought you were my friend, Barty. You act like you haven't thought about it."
"There is nothing to think of. If I wanted to be a... monster, I would've asked!"
Patrick laughed. "He's getting powerful. Imagine all the infamy you would recieve for being the Dark Lord's servant. He's rising Barty... you can feel it, I can feel it, and our pal Lestrange most certainly feels it. Don't act like you don't fit in―"
"What's going on boys?" Flitwick had finally decided to step in. He pushed them away from each other, although several feet shorter than them. Barty threw his arms around his chest, but Patrick continued to look at him.
"It's well past the curfew, Esling," Flitwick said, ushering the boy off. "Crouch, you can come with me."
Flitwick could taste Barty's hatred at being called upon. Nevertheless, he walked with Flitwick back to the Charms room, more hopeless than before.
"Helena," groaned Flitwick, twiddling his thumbs anxiously, "I think that this is the only thing we will agree on. Rabastan Lestrange was nothing short of a monster, but I hardly doubt that Barty would have put up with him for a minute if he thought that. Rabastan could have said something to him, something that would make Barty want to know him. I remember when Rabastan was in my Charms class. I never thought that he would be as bad as he is now; in fact, I thought he was a kind lad. A bit of a follower if you will, but very kind."
The Grey Lady laughed coldly. "I've heard much worse out of him. He has a bad humour, Fillius. He and his formidable sister-in-law both do; I've heard that they actually planned the whole Longbottom fiasco much dirtier than it actually was. They are an odd sort... very off indeed."
Barty and Flitwick made their way back to his office, neither of them talking. Barty felt sick to his stomach, trying to take in all the things Patrick had said.
Flitwick noted Barty's white face and shook his head, wanting to guide the boy in the very least. It was amazing how Flitwick always had the urge to take Barty under his wing. But, thinking back on it, Barty's brilliance and exclusion of others reminded him of himself. He could see himself, albeit younger, walking where Barty was now. A hopeless little creature the boy was. With this thought in hand, he moved his legs faster, opening up the door.
Barty sat in the chair, the moon making his skin look like cream. His eyes were bloodshot, his hands shaking uncontrollably. The thing that bothered Flitwick was his eyes… Barty's eyes that were so wide he could almost see into his soul, yet couldn't at the same time. Many questions were answered, but so many more weren't.
"Professor," Barty mumbled, his voice carefully controlled. "I agree with you if you want to give me a detention. It wasn't right of me to sneak after hours. Or you can dock some points off of Ravenclaw, I deserve it. Maybe you could―"
Flitwick raised his hand for silence, looking extraordinarily powerful for such a tiny man. "That's not why I called you in here. You didn't think that I would let you off that easy?"
When Barty said nothing, Flitwick continued. "I called you in here because I read the paper this morning. It's none of my business, but you were really distracted in class today. And when I saw you talking like that to Patrick Esling, I didn't know what to think."
Barty stiffened, folding his arms protectively around his chest. "You are right," he sniffed. "It isn't any of your business."
"It's okay if you are scared of him, Barty. I know that I am. And, even though He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is out there, it doesn't mean you have to join him. Don't let others fool you into thinking otherwise."
"I don't want to join him," Barty sniffed. "I don't know why people think I do. I'm not a killer."
As the Grey Lady nodded after her statement, Flitwick only had one thing to say. "Barty was never easily swayed; Rabastan Lestrange was just his friend. They connected."
The Grey Lady nodded again. "That's what I'm saying. Lestrange never showed his true colours to anyone, at least while he was in school. But Barty connected with him; they were probably planning to be The Dark Lord's minions from day one."
"Oh no," Flitwick said. "Barty was probably scared when Rabastan showed him who he really was."
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