Crouch frowned slightly as Lucius Malfoy emerged from the darkness. Without acknowledging Lucius, he proceeded toward his home.

Observing this, Lucius hurriedly advanced, catching up with Crouch, and blocked his path. He said, “Hey Barty, there’s something I want to talk to you about!”

Barty Crouch, visibly irritated, retorted, “Get out of the way; I have nothing to talk to you about!” He then pushed Lucius aside and continued walking.

Unperturbed by the shove, Lucius stood his ground and remarked calmly, “If you don’t have anything to talk about, I’ll just go and speak to Barty Crouch Jr. I think he must be looking forward to stepping back into the light!”

Hearing Lucius’ words, Crouch paused for a moment.

Just as Lucius smirked subtly, Crouch vanished from his sight. When Lucius regained awareness, a wand was pressed against his forehead. “You better watch your next words, Malfoy. Don’t you dare drag my son into this.”

At that moment, Lucius found himself drenched in sweat, surprised by the intensity of Crouch’s reaction. He hadn’t anticipated such a strong response. “Don’t you think this is quite an over reaction for this kind of thing, Barty?”

Behind Lucius, Barty Crouch spoke slowly, revealing a dark truth, “My son, Barty Crouch Jr., has died in Azkaban, and that’s what he deserved! Since you want to talk to him, I’ll send you after him to the afterlife if you want to talk so badly with him; what do you think?”

Hearing Crouch’s words, Lucius took a deep breath and then, gritting his teeth, responded fiercely, “Barty, whether your son was imprisoned in Azkaban or died in Azkaban, you and I both know it! You don’t have to worry about how I know the news of whether or not your son is alive. Rest assured, I haven’t disclosed it to anyone else!”

As Lucius finished speaking, the entire empty street descended into an eerie silence.

Time seemed to stretch endlessly, and in Lucius’s perception, it felt like a century.

Eventually, Lucius sensed that Crouch was slowly withdrawing the wand pressing against his forehead.

Observing the situation, Lucius felt a wave of relief, though the realization dawned on him that his entire body was drenched in cold sweat.

He turned to look back and found Crouch seated on a nearby stone, his countenance darkened and an air of desolation about him.

Lucius approached, intending to offer words of comfort, but before he could speak, Crouch’s cold voice cut through the silence. “Lucius, let’s be honest, what do you want? I don’t have the time to deal with your nonsense.”

Lucius responded with a slight smile, then stated, “Firstly, I want you to refrain from commenting on Lockhart’s proposed central bank for the wizarding world.”

Crouch remained expressionless, signaling for Lucius to proceed, “Go on…”

Without much room for retreat, Lucius continued, “Secondly, someone wishes for you to step down from the position of Head of Legal Enforcement at the British Ministry of Magic.”

Upon hearing this, Crouch stared at Lucius, his gaze intense as he spoke slowly, “So, Fudge sent you here?”

Before Lucius could respond, Crouch shook his head in a deliberate denial. “No, it can’t be Fudge. If Fudge had knowledge of Barty Jr., he wouldn’t need to send someone. Instead of Lucius Malfoy waiting here tonight, it would be the pride of the British Ministry of Magic, Cornelius Fudge himself.”

After a brief moment of contemplation, Crouch fixed Lucius with a peculiar gaze and continued, “So, in reality, I am not your actual goal. There is no genuine interest between us. I am merely a pawn in your game, or perhaps, asking me to step down from the position of the Head of Legal Enforcement at the British Ministry of Magic is your bargaining chip with someone else. Am I correct?”

Upon hearing Crouch’s explanation, Lucius wasn’t particularly surprised. Knowing Crouch’s history as the most favored ministerial candidate for the British Ministry of Magic before Fudge, such actions seemed within his character.

Sensing that Crouch had no intention of attacking again, Lucius spoke calmly, “Barty, I truly didn’t expect you to rescue Barty Crouch Jr. from Azkaban. It’s quite out of character for you.”

Crouch replied with a wry smile, “What could I do? His mother is seriously ill, and her time is running out. That day, she knelt down in front of me, crying and begging me to save Barty Jr.. I couldn’t resist her plea. I agreed to her plan.”

Understanding the complexities of family ties, Lucius patted Crouch on the shoulder in a sympathetic gesture.

Reflecting on the situation, he realized that if Draco were in a similar predicament, he might make the same choice, albeit without the same guilt.

At that moment, Crouch inquired, “I want to know, who is behind your back, or rather, who’s planning to take my place after I step down? At least you can tell me that much, Malfoy…”

After a brief pause, Lucius opted for honesty and responded, “It’s Thomas, Thomas Vole.”

Crouch displayed surprise upon hearing Lucius’ revelation, exclaiming, “Thomas Vole? That’s a candidate I didn’t expect. I presumed you’d suggest someone with a pure-blooded lineage.”

Lucius, choosing not to reply, simply smiled. Crouch continued, expressing his thoughts, “Thomas Vole is a more fitting choice! He possesses the necessary skills and qualifications, and currently, he has garnered support from many wizards. The timing couldn’t be better.”

As Crouch mused aloud, Lucius added internally, “Most importantly, they have a good daughter!”

After a brief exchange, silence enveloped them. Crouch eventually addressed Lucius, stating, “Tomorrow, I will go and ask Fudge to resign as Director of Legal Enforcement at the British Ministry of Magic.”

“Thank you, Barty. I know you are a reasonable man. This is all for the sake of the wizarding world. I didn’t even think of myself when this plan was made,” Lucius continued with his self-flaunting speech, which attracted no attention from Crouch.

Without awaiting Lucius’ gratitude, Crouch swiftly returned to his home after waving his hand once, “Save your nonsense for later, Malfoy. I don’t have the energy to deal with all of these right now; I only need you to keep the promise that you made tonight. Hopefully, we won’t meet each other for the rest of our lives.” He said with a weary tone.

“Now, don’t be so gloomy. Why would I avoid meeting with an individual like you? You are one of the figures in the wizarding world that I held in high regard; don’t lower yourself.” Lucius continued with his empty compliment toward Crouch.

Concluding the conversation for the night, both of them went to their own home.

Upon reaching his home, Crouch nudged the house-elf Shiny aside and promptly revealed a concealed door within the residence.

A disheveled young man sat on the floor inside the room, looking visibly weary and uninterested.


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Published On: April 18, 2024

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