Chapter 12 : Dead Ends
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When he arrived at the secluded cottage and found the Lestranges there waiting, Barty breathed a sigh of relief. There were few people in the world that he felt he could trust right now, and the Lestranges—bound to him by what they had inflicted upon the Longbottoms—were among them.
"It's about time," Bellatrix hissed, stepping towards him as he entered the room. "We'd begun to think you weren't coming."
A small magical fire danced in the middle of the room, casting dramatic shadows on the walls. The cottage might once have been a cozy retreat, but it looked and smelled like it had been neglected for several years. Rabastan sat in a saggy armchair on the other side of the fire, and Rodolphus was standing with his arms crossed next to his brother.
"It's not as if I had anywhere else to go," Barty replied.
Bellatrix laughed derisively at this, which seemed an odd reaction, but Barty didn't spend much time dwelling on it—her behaviour was often inexplicable, and they all had more pressing things to worry about at the moment.
"What's the plan?" he asked, addressing the entire group. No one replied immediately. "We have to find a way to keep out of sight until we can find the Dark Lord—and it's not going to be easy. Everyone's after us."
He paused, but was once again met with silence. Rodolphus, whose face was set in an unpleasant expression, exchanged glances with his wife and brother.
A feeling of unease began to creep into Barty's stomach.
"What is it? Have you heard something about the Dark Lord?" he asked, and finally, Rodolphus spoke.
"Listen, kid, we've got to talking, and we think it would be best if the three of us...went our separate ways."
Barty felt as though he'd been punched in the gut. Silence reverberated throughout the room for a few moments.
"I don't see why you'd think that's the best plan," Barty finally said. "As far as I can see, the only way to get out of this is the same way we got into it: together."
Bellatrix laughed again. "What else did you expect? You didn't really think we were going to go on the run with you, did you?"
Barty felt his entire body burn with a mixture of fury and embarrassment.
"Well, why wouldn't I?" he snapped, his voice growing louder against his better efforts to control it. "It's not like I wasn't there with you when it all happened—not like I stood off to the side while the three of you did the dirty work! I was right there beside you, so, yes, I expected we'd be in this together!"
"What a shame," Bellatrix said, her tone far from matching her words. An angry retort was on the verge of escaping Barty's mouth when Rabastan interjected.
"Barty, no one's trying to claim that you weren't there. We saw you torture Frank—and for a long time, too," Rabastan said, sounding almost as if he were accusing Barty, "but the entire country's in an uproar. And you're the son of the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."
"And I wasn't when you asked me to join the Dark Lord? Or when we went to the Longbottoms' home?" Barty exploded.
"It was different before," Bellatrix said, shrugging. Her nonchalance angered him almost as much as the accusation.
"How? You know that I hate my father! I would never in million years betray you to him!"
"All the same," Rabastan said, "it wouldn't be smart of us to hang around with you when we're trying to evade people like your dad."
If it had been anyone else standing with him in the room, saying these things to him, and if Barty hadn't gone through everything he had to reach this very moment, he might have paused, hoping for one of them to say it had all been a joke, and that they wouldn't abandon him. But it was them, saying these things, and Barty had been through a hell of a lot—he'd seen cruelty and senseless death, felt the emptiness of grief and the burning of revenge—so the only reason he paused was to work out in his head what to do next.
"I suppose I'll just be on my way, then?" Barty spat at them. None of them responded, and so he turned back to the door. As he did, a final thought occurred to him. "You know, it seems to me that it's really not smart at all to leave me on my own, considering who my family is. How do you know I won't go to my father and give him information on you, now that you're turning your back on me?"
Rodolphus looked alarmed, and Rabastan uneasy, but Bellatrix did little more than roll her eyes.
"What information? You don't know where we'll go after this, and if you tell him what happened with the Longbottoms, you'll have to explain how you have such a detailed first-hand account," she said. She looked at her husband and brother-in-law. "He's nothing but empty words."
Barty might have argued his case further, but he knew Bellatrix was right. The fact that he'd even made the threat at all was evidence of his desperation.
He turned to the door without another word, his mind racing with a thousand thoughts. He knew the only way to extricate himself from the position he was in was to find Voldemort and bring him back to power. Though he had no idea where to look for him or what he would need to do, there had to be a way. Barty wasn't an idiot; in fact, he was as smart as all three of the Lestranges put together. When he was the one to bring the Dark Lord back to his former glory, the tables would certainly be turned...
There was still one person he knew he could trust. Aurora would never betray him. She had stood by him even knowing what he had done to Frank Longbottom, and in that, Barty saw hope. Not only would Aurora be unfailingly loyal to him, but she might also be persuaded to help him find Voldemort. She didn't see things in black and white; she was too intelligent for that. Aurora would understand why he had to search for Voldemort, just as she had understood that what he had done to Frank Longbottom was justified. It might take some convincing—she had been angry with Barty about Frank at first, after all—but in the end, she would see reason.
As he stepped outside into the damp evening air, the thought of Aurora comforted him. She would understand, she would stand by him, and she would love him. It seemed incredible to him that she had said those words, after so many years, but it felt like they had always been there between them, waiting to be spoken. The memory of the first time he had kissed Aurora, on the grounds of Hogwarts, when things had seemed much simpler, made him feel less troubled. Everything would work out with Aurora by his side.
He had barely taken two steps when his eyes began to adjust, and he realized he was not alone. A wall of people surrounded the house: Aurors.
Barty raised his wand and managed to hit one of them with a Stunning Spell before trying to Disapparate, but his feet stayed planted on the ground. He should have realized there would be an Anti-Apparition Jinx set on the area.
His wand flew from his hand. Unarmed and surrounded on all sides, there was nothing he could do but admit defeat.
A pair of Aurors forced Barty to the ground and bound him from shoulders to ankles with thick cords. He spat out a few blades of grass from his mouth bitterly, silently cursing the Lestranges for setting him up like this—but then he heard crashes and yells from inside the cottage, and realized the Aurors were attempting to apprehend them as well. If they had been the ones to give away Barty's location, surely they would have made sure that they themselves would not be captured along with him?
He could not understand how this had happened. There was no one around for miles, but perhaps someone had spotted them on the way here and reported it to the Ministry. He couldn't imagine that the Aurors had the brains or the luck to figure out their meeting place without help, but who would have helped them?
The answer hit Barty like a freight train: a memory of writing down the location of their meeting, and handing it over without any misgivings...
Aurora had known where they would be. She was the only other person who had known at all.
A shout rang through the night air and broke through Barty's horror. "Crouch! We've got them!"
The realization that his father was here, among those about to cart him off to Azkaban, hardly mattered.
Professor Flitwick and the Grey Lady did not meet again until the following afternoon. People had been slowly trickling onto the grounds all day; news of Voldemort's defeat had by now spread across the country, and some had evidently wanted to see if it was true with their own eyes. Those who had been present at the battle were beginning the long process of rebuilding not only the school, but their lives. After finishing lunch on the sunny grounds, Professor Flitwick approached Helena.
"I apologize for yesterday," he said, not meeting her translucent eyes. "It's rare that I even spare a thought for Barty Crouch after so long. I suppose in going over the details, my emotions got the best of me."
"There's no need to apologize, Filius," Helena stated calmly. "Barty's story is not an easy one to stomach."
They stood in silence for a moment, looking up at the castle.
"There were people in my lifetime who could recall when these walls were built," Helena said. "I can't help but wonder what they would say if they could see Hogwarts today."
"I think they would be proud," Professor Flitwick replied. "Proud, that the school they had built, and the students and teachers within it, stood up to so great a challenge and emerged victorious."
"Perhaps," Helena mused. Noting Professor Flitwick's expression of consternation, she continued, "I am sorry, Filius. I don't mean to sound so doubtful, but our trip into Barty Crouch's past has me feeling rather pessimistic. My mother would have been horrified if she knew that someone who committed such evil acts had once called Ravenclaw Tower their home."
"Ah, but Helena, can you not see in Barty's story an example of a Ravenclaw who was not only good-hearted, but also courageous and honest?" Professor Flitwick asked wryly. Helena looked at him blankly. "I mean Aurora, of course—Aurora, who had the strength to turn in the man she loved to a life in Azkaban. Aurora, who fought last night alongside us, and today works to rebuild the legacy that your mother founded."
He gestured across the grounds toward a pile of rubble. A woman with dark hair and a determined expression was helping a group of students move the felled stone away from the castle so they could survey the damage better.
Helena still frowned. "The trouble is, Filius, that we haven't even come to the conclusion of Barty's story. He was captured, yes, but it was just the beginning of yet another chapter of wickedness."
Three days: that was how long Barty spent confined in a cell in Azkaban, awaiting transfer to his trial. At least, he was told when he was first brought to the island prison that he would be there for three days, so he assumed it was true. The constant despair he felt because of the Dementors made him unaware of anything else but the very darkest memories and emotions he possessed: Aurora's betrayal, Frank Longbottom's terrified face, Lysandra's death, his father's cold disapproval.
He did nothing but sit and stare blankly at a wall for most hours of the day. Even sleeping was a struggle; he had never imagined that nightmares could be as terrifying as the ones he experienced at Azkaban.
When they came to take him to his trial, he realized very quickly that things had changed a great deal in three days. People treated him with disgust, as if he were no longer human. They kept him separated from the Lestranges until they were about to enter the courtroom. Barty didn't mind that, since he was hoping to distance himself from them as much as possible during the trial.
He would pose the entire scenario as their idea: it was a lie, of course, but Barty felt he could tell it convincingly. It would be simple enough to reverse his and Rabastan's positions that night. Rabastan, and not Barty, had been the one to suggest questioning Aurors on Voldemort's whereabouts. Rabastan, not Barty, had somehow obtained the Longbottoms' location. Barty had been the one who stayed behind at The Leaky Cauldron—he had no idea that the Lestranges planned to torture information out of Frank and Alice Longbottom.
It was a stretch, but Barty had age and familial connections on his side. People would be much more likely to believe the frightened teenage son of Bartemius Crouch, crusader in the fight against Voldemort, than three people who came from families with ties to the Dark Arts. The mere fact that the three of them were all related worked in Barty's favour: it seemed more believable that they would have left him behind, and set off for the Longbottoms' together.
His father was the crux of it all. His father would know that Barty was lying, of course, andall he could do was hope that there was some shred of paternal love in his father's cold heart.
As soon as he set foot in the courtroom, he knew there was no chance of his plan succeeding.
The air in the room was tense with aggression, and expressions of hatred stared down at him from every seat in the room. The only sign of mercy Barty could find in the sea of people present at the trial was his mother, sobbing beside his father. Her tears made him feel even more certain that his fate had already been decided.
Barty was suddenly terrified.
His father stood and began to speak, just as he would have with any other criminal that passed before him. Panic began to rise in Barty's chest; he had never felt so vulnerable before. Reason and planning were out of the question, and no lie seemed clever enough to help him now.
His father was bringing forth the accusations against them, and at the mention of torturing Frank Longbottom, Barty erupted with panic, two words accompanying the pounding of his heart: They know, they know, they know, they know...
"I didn't, I swear it, Father, don't send me back to the Dementors—"
His father continued on as if there had been no interruption. The Ministry knew everything; they knew what they had done, and why they had done it, and Barty was being accused of torturing Frank's wife even though he had never raised a wand against her.
Barty started to fall apart, screaming out for his mother's help, though he knew there was nothing she could do for him. He could hardly hear anything over his screams and the beating of his own heart, but the next words his father spoke would have been impossible to miss.
"I now ask the jury to raise their hands if they believe, as I do, that these crimes deserve a life sentence in Azkaban."
A life sentence? Barty had barely survived three days—he was nineteen years old, the rest of his life would be decades: decades of constant sorrow, discomfort, and isolation. He was suddenly transported back to the worst moments of his sojourn in Azkaban, and the thought of enduring that for the rest of his life made him begin to scream anew.
The Dementors returned, but Barty was determined not to give in without a fight. The most he could manage was to half-heartedly pull himself out of their cold grasp once or twice, but it was no use.
Bellatrix was calling out to the crowd, but the power of the Dementors was such that Barty did not care what she was saying, and did not listen. He could only look up at his father and say one thing—the one thing he was left with, abandoned by everyone he believed he could trust, and yet the one thing he had never felt to be true until this very moment.
"I'm your son!"
The crowd was cheering, and the Dementors pressing in on him. Barty did not hear his father's response, but he saw his mouth move, and hatred and revulsion was etched in every line of his face.
As the Dementors began to pull Barty from the room, he looked for his mother's face, but she was lost in the crowd. Realizing it was his last chance, he tried to revert to his original plan, and cried out that he was innocent, but no one cared.
No one cared. Lysandra was not alive to care; Aurora had cared so little she had turned him in; Rabastan did not care, and would have left Barty to fend for himself; the court did not care to hear his side of the story; his father did not care, and never had.
He had learned the hard way that the only person who would look out for him was himself. In a haze of numbness and exhaustion, he wondered if he would ever get the chance to do that again.
*Lines in bold are taken from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, UK edition, pages 517-518.
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