Chapter 1 : The Signing
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Barty Crouch stared unseeingly at the document before him, absentmindedly tugging at his neat moustache. His dark hair was uncharacteristically messy, face ghostly white against his black robes. This new law could be the answer to all his problems, but still he hesitated. Could he possibly approve such a measure?
It had been a difficult week. Times were constantly tough for everyone at the moment, but this week had been a particularly challenging one. There had been fifteen deaths amongst the wizarding community; three of them Ministry workers and one of Dumbledore’s close personal friends. That was without mentioning the muggle boat which had been found floating off the south coast with all the passengers and crew mysteriously murdered, or the climbers who had gone missing without trace in the Lake District.
The Minister was at the end of his tether. Barty had been called into his office every day for the last month to listen to him begging for some form of good news, but there was none to offer. Even the Head of the Department of Magical Transportation had recently been discovered to be acting under the Imperius Curse; sheer luck was all that had prevented him from murdering not only the Minister but half of his workers as well. It seemed there was nowhere which could escape the horrific reach of the war. This wizard, styling himself the Dark Lord, was wreaking terror throughout Britain, and there were times when it seemed impossible to halt his advance.
As much as he hated to admit it, Barty was scared. Each new day brought fresh news of the travesties that the followers of You-Know-Who had committed, and this news brought fresh chances of him losing his job. As the Head of Magical Law Enforcement it was his responsibility to make amends and remedy what the Death Eaters had done. He had a full team of Aurors working overtime, much like the majority of the Ministry workers, and still he had been unable to remedy the situation.
The real problem was that his Aurors had no real powers when they came face-to-face with Death Eaters. Under attack from Unforgivable Curses, their only form of defence was attempting to incapacitate and capture their foe. It was hardly surprising that so many of the bravest and best Aurors had themselves been killed. Even when they managed to arrest one of You-Know-Who’s followers they often escaped whilst waiting for trial, or evaded justice due to the lack of proof of their allegiance to the so-called Dark Lord. The situation was hopeless; more cells in Azkaban were empty now than at any point in the last decade despite the vigorous efforts from the Ministry to convict the supporters.
This parchment was a solution to that problem. With the wizarding world descending into chaos, people were crying out for the Ministry to do something to stop it. Harsher measures were needed to satisfy them and to hinder You-Know-Who’s progress. Behind the scenes, that had been the topic discussed most frequently amongst the Heads of Ministry departments. The result was a new bill, drawn up by his colleagues. It needed only his signature for the legislation to be enshrined by law and put into action.
It was so simple. Barty only needed to pick up the quill and sign his name. Yet he continued to delay the signing.
If this bill was passed, Aurors would have new powers that enabled them to truly fight against the Death Eaters. They would be able to use the Unforgivable Curses against You-Know-Who’s followers; essentially any method that ensured their capture. There was more chance that his son, training for the same profession, would survive each combat he entered. It would give the Ministry a chance of winning this war.
But if there was one thing Barty Crouch truly hated, it was the Dark Arts. His entire life had been dedicated to fighting and eradicating them, and he would be going against everything he believed in to condone the Aurors using Unforgivable Curses, or imprisoning known Death Eaters without trial. Justice was crucial to him. There was a fine line between retaliation and becoming as bad as the Death Eaters, and he feared that this measure crossed that line. What would become of his Aurors if he allowed them to descend to the same level as those they fought so courageously?
Barty was a serious man, but he had never felt more serious than in this moment. The decision he made now would affect, if not decide, the outcome of this war. His signature could save thousands of lives.
What choice was there, really? He had seen colleagues and friends die pointless deaths. Some of his son’s schoolmates had suffered losses in their families or been killed themselves. Defenceless and innocent muggles were perhaps the worst victims. There was death and torture and heartbreak every day and Barty had the power to end that.
In spite of his loathing for the Dark Arts, he realised that this was the only way. That was the difference between war and peace; actions taken in wartime could not be judged by any other standard. Sometimes it was necessary to make decisions that went against your conscience if they could bring about a better future. War was a game. There were losers and winners and sometimes taking risks for the greater good created a winner. Barty Crouch was a winner, and he knew what he had to do.
He picked up the quill and dipped it in the pot of ink. He didn’t like the method, but it was needed to bring about the outcome he desired more than anything; an end to this horrendous war. The policy had to work. He would make sure that it did.
Barty placed the nib of the quill on the parchment and signed his name.