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Chapter 1 : I'm sorry, Mother
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Barty Crouch Junior’s head lolls lazily onto his shoulder. Minerva McGonagall’s face is repulsed. He grins at her.
‘Are you scared?’ he hisses to her, feeling his mouth move mechanically, a separate entity, independent in its actions as if knowing that his brain is too sluggish to cope at the moment. He’s always been good at talking, Barty Crouch Junior. His mouth is just doing what it’s always done, regardless of the state his brain is in.
Now McGonagall looks ugly with hatred. She grips her wand tighter and he grins wider, feeling his cheeks ache. His cheeks, not that foul Auror’s. Finally he is free; he does not have to pretend, to mind his every move, every word, even every thought. He has not been Barty Crouch Junior for months, not even for a millisecond. But now he is free.
‘The Dark Lord is back and no matter what you do, any of you, there is no stopping him. He is immortal,’ he says in slurred ecstasy. He watches her face for every tell, and there it is: her mouth tightens. But still she does not speak.
Barty Crouch Junior laughs – all of a sudden a burst of wild galloping energy explodes from the abyss – free, free at last! Both of them are free, the Dark Lord and he, he who was so unworthy in his father’s eyes, he who will fashion himself a new name, just as his master has done, he decides all of a sudden, resolving to shed the shame of his father’s name forever.
They can lock him up, throw him back into prison – that slicing chill scrapes through his insides at the thought of Azkaban – but it does not matter, because his master will save him. His master needs his most loyal servant. He has been loyal, the most loyal, and nothing can break the bond that he and his master share. He will be rewarded above all others, and he deserves it …
But the Potter boy escaped.
His laughter ringing, ringing, ringing, ringing round the office is suddenly stopped short at the thought.
McGonagall looks down on him tied helplessly on the floor, cold pity in her eyes.
Pity? Barty marvels. Pity … Even the strong can be ruled by the treacherous, he muses to himself. Even after what he has done to her side, Minerva McGonagall is ruled by her flawed and weak emotions … Pity! He chuckles quietly, slowly.
McGonagall shifts her stance a little, and Barty’s eyes snap onto her, watching her every move.
‘How long until I’m taken away?’ he cries in an exclamation of petulant boredom, his words still drunk and slurred from the truth serum.
‘Shortly,’ McGonagall answers tersely.
Barty fidgets in his bonds. He desires nothing more than to be with his master, be out of this room – this infernal room! This room he has had to live in over the past months not as himself – his master’s loyal servant – but as one of them. He had turned his every fibre into Alastor Moody’s, not just his outward gestures and words, but his very thoughts, his very essence; the only chance he had of fooling Dumbledore was to fool himself. He has not been Barty Crouch for such a long time …
Suddenly his head snaps to McGonagall again. She has moved, just a step, towards him, her wand still pointed steadily at his chest. The cold pity on her face is starting to itch at him. He wants to wipe her face clean – get rid of that expression, woman! – make it blank, blank, blank and staring, dead. How he would like to kill that look of pity!
‘Your mother died for this,’ she says quietly, almost to herself, still staring at his face.
‘Gnaaah!’ he growls, feeling savage, jerking in his bonds to get at her, aching to get at her. How dare she!
She steps back away from him, her brow pulled downwards.
A new feeling, a forgotten feeling, tugs at him now. His mother.
‘It was not in vain!’ he hisses at McGonagall, saliva dampening his chin.
The Potter boy escaped.
Everything blurs. After her sacrifice, he had failed. He had failed.
The Potter boy escaped.
Footsteps sound from outside the door.
Finally this room will be left behind! He will be reunited with his master soon, and he and the Dark Lord will fulfil the mission together. His mother’s sacrifice will be repaid.
But that scraping, slicing chill slides with horrid familiarity in his stomach. His breath fogs in front of his face and horripilation erupts over his body. The cold. Oh no, the cold, the cold, the cold, the cold, NOT THE COLD!
McGonagall senses it too, or maybe she hasn’t yet and is responding to the words coming out of his mouth, his well-trained tongue ever-talking even when he does not have the capacity to consciously formulate sentences. She says, ‘Cold?’ to him, looking confused, then spins to face the door. She shudders, now feeling it too, and moves her wand from Barty to the opening office door.
‘Ah, Minerva,’ the Minister’s voice sounds, but then there is a rattling, rasping breath, and Barty does not hear anything else.
The rotten spectre floats into the room past the Minister and McGonagall and slides with eager purpose to Barty. Claws of naked horror stab into his heart, icy talons that insert coldly and surely into the warm beating organ that sustains his life, turning the pumping blood painfully cold.
‘N-no!’ he feels his throat gasp.
Those scabbed hands lock around his neck but he does not feel their pressure; he does not feel anything, not the floor beneath him, not the ropes binding him. He only sees into the hood of the Dementor, sees what yawns there, and through the terror vibrating in every particle of his being there is a yank of sorrowful panic, the wrenching feeling of tragedy you feel when you let something slip through your fingers.
As the hood lowers and his body goes limp, the last thing of which Barty Crouch Junior thinks is not his master and the promised deeds and rewards, but of his mother: a clear picture in his mind of her blue eyes and soft voice, and the fact that she died for him to be free.
I’m sorry, Mother, he thinks, just before the fear freezes everything, every muscle, every nerve, every thought.
The hideous abyss yawns over him, gaping, gaping. He is falling, falling.
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