Chapter 18 : The Last Kiss
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Barty sat, bound, with nothing more than the bare stone walls to keep him company. He felt a sense of unmitigated euphoria, greater even than when he had managed to return to the Dark Lord’s service. He was back, stronger than ever, and it was all thanks to Barty.
The fact that Barty himself had been captured was of little consequence. Now that the Dark Lord had returned, Barty felt no fear—he remembered how heady the feeling of power was, and basked in it.
He could see a few stars through the narrow window across from him, small bits of light in the dark mass of the sky. Inexplicably, it reminded him of Aurora. Being in such close contact with her had been the most difficult part of the plot. Barty had been afraid at first that she would somehow know it was him behind Moody’s face; he had been both relieved and disappointed that she had not noticed anything awry in their brief contact with each other. He had been a stranger to her. He wondered where she was now—whether she knew that he was alive, and what he had achieved.
As time passed, he began to grow restless, the balloon of his triumph deflating slightly. Why had the Dark Lord not come for him yet? Had something gone wrong? Perhaps it had been a mistake for them to have place their trust in Wormtail, traitor that he was.
The thought that the plan might have failed in the end, and that Barty would have to face the consequences...contemplating it made his skin crawl. He could not, would not, go back to Azkaban again. He could still recall the time he had spent there vividly, brief though it had been: the feelings of misery that had gripped him like a vise, the constant replaying of all his worst moments, the lack of any respite, even in the form of sleep.
His mind was steeped so heavily in the recollection that he found he could not tear himself away; concerns about Aurora or the Dark Lord were miles away, leaving him alone with dread for the future.
It was only when he noticed that he could see his breath in the air in front of him that he realized it was no mere memory—it was real.
He tried desperately to escape, willing the magical bonds placed on him to break; he tried to get to his feet, but the heels of his boots slid against the stone floor fruitlessly. His heart was shrieking in his chest, its own chance of escape as impossible as his own.
When the door opened, the Minister for Magic stood without, flanked by two hooded figures. Barty was blinded by terror, and in his last few moments, he felt as though he were nineteen again, standing in a courtroom. This time, his screams were silenced forever.
Filus had never expected to see Barty again, nor had he. The night when his deceit had been revealed, Hogwarts had been in such turmoil that the news did not come to Filius until the next day. He had retired to his chambers that night with a heavy heart, thinking of poor Cedric Diggory and his parents, completely unaware that Barty was within the castle’s walls.
“When I think how someone could have done such a thing...” Helena said, trailing off mournfully.
Filius had to admit that the same bewilderment occurred to him when he reflected on Barty’s saga. When he had heard of Barty’s conviction, he had been filled with grim regret; when he had heard of his death in Azkaban, he felt it had been a small kind of mercy; when he heard that Barty had neither been dead nor imprisoned, he had been stunned. The secrecy, the complexity...how Barty’s father had hidden his son for so long, and how Barty himself had masqueraded as Alastor Moody for the better part of a year, were hardly possible to comprehend.
Filius smiled sadly. “Few could have managed it, Helena, it’s true. But, as we have discussed, he was one of the more intelligent pupils to pass through this school. He was a Ravenclaw, through and through.”
“Ravenclaws do not use their intelligence for the sorts of things that he did,” she replied stiffly.
Filius sighed. “I’m sure Barty was neither the first nor the last Ravenclaw who did wrong in this world—who hurt others through his or her actions. And perhaps, in the end, he regretted it after all.”
He was tired of debating the matter, and it seemed that Helena would never be convinced. After a few moments, he looked up at her, and was surprised to see a thoughtful look on her face.
“Perhaps,” Helena said, and Filius had a feeling that she was not only thinking of Barty Crouch. There might be a chance of changing her mind yet.
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