Title: To Sleep, Perchance to Dream. Sixth in the Enchantment Series.
Pairing: Harry/Barty Crouch Jr.
Summary: The fog of the Imperius Curse had kept Barty unthinking for years until, one day, a young boy with bright eyes and black hair changed his world. Harry/Barty Crouch Jr. Ravenclaw!Harry.
Warnings: Mild Chan. Mentions of Neglecting a Child. Quotations from Hamlet.
Part the First – A Philosopher and a Stone
“But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.”
The words echoed through his haze-filled mind, unspoken, unheard, simply there. Lips never forming to utter them, sound never resonating through a throat—there, there—simply whispering—hushed—hushed, voices—nothing—gray fog, dark dreams, trapped forever in a gray world as other words, more commanding, told him what to do. —
Still, the words lingered around him, pulling Barty through so he became at least partially aware of his surroundings.
Gray fog surrounding a comfortable bed, his room as a child, perhaps. He could not tell. It had been too long—long—long. How many years, how many years—he could not know.
There had been Hogwarts. Ravenclaw. Father so proud but never there. Nothing—nothing—missing—gone.
“But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue,” the voice left unsaid again.
He could feel the invisibility cloak wrapped around him, hiding him from even his father’s ever-watching eyes. Some days he would stare at his reflection for hours, seeing nothing but the walls behind him. He was nothing, no one, lost in a fog, his thoughts not even his own, whispered words—harsh—telling him what to do.
Sleep. Eat. Drink. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Slumber.
The house-elf always present, always fond, always caring. So sickening. She was beneath him—or she would have been if Barty could remember what it was like to think at all. So many years under a curse that once he had cast—so many years—or perhaps only days. He could no longer remember, could not see his reflection in the mirror he was now looking into. Nothing but a wall, a bed, curtains, a house-elf in the chair by the door winking at him, a boy sitting cross-legged on the bed, a window partially open and letting in the cool Autumn breeze if Autumn even survived in this purgatory of nothingness and fog.
He was drifting as he always did, he’d been sleeping for so long, just waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting.
Bright green eyes looking back at him, calling to him, asking him to see, to remember, to no longer float in the clouds.
The house-elf gone. He did not see her go—not that his mind can think such things.
“Focus on my voice,” the boy whispered and Barty found himself sitting on the bed, like the eyes had asked him to. Mists swirled around him, covering his eyes so that the features before him were indistinct. Nothing but a boy, so young, young enough to have just received his Hogwarts letter.
Croton capitatus. A flower without a flower.
A small hand moved up to his face, slipping beneath the cloak and disappearing—invisible again—a boy without a hand—touching his face as if to make certain he was real.
The boy smiled up at him before pushing the cloak off.
“I’ve read about you,” the boy admitted. “There’s a plaque in the common room, did you know? Twelve O.W.L.s—all Outstanding. A pride of Ravenclaw house despite everything. Do you regret it?”
The boy’s words filtered through Barty’s mind pushing away the fog, but not enough, never enough. Green eyes looked curiously into his dead ones—they used to be brown before he stopped having a reflection, he recalled. Brown like his mother’s with his father’s straw blond hair.
“What happened to you?” the boy now whispered, moving closer, pushing Barty so he lay against the bed.
A small form hovering over him, eyes just above his own, the tip of a nose gently brushing his—so long since he felt a caress as hands worked their way into his hair. He knows he should be feeling, can almost sense a shudder running down his spine, but the fog cushions him too much, whispers to him that he feels and knows nothing, and the impressions of the long years alone well up within his mind, taunting him, punishing him, whispering, whispering, hushed—hushed voices—
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue, the boy had whispered, or at least Barty had thought he had.
‘Hamlet,’ his lips formed, willing the word into being, although his throat could not produce sound.
Do not speak, his father’s voice had once commanded—obey—obey—he must obey—floating into nothingness.
The boy smiled impishly down at him, nodding briefly.
Barty wanted to reach up and touch that young face, the sharp aristocratic cheekbones, surely. A pureblood, he wondered, if he could still remember how to wonder at all in the mist that never ended.
“Yes, Hamlet,” the boy agreed, his small hands, long fingers, moving through his hair. His mother used to run her hands through his hair, before he was lost in this fog, before, before, but after the screams for her ended—so long ago—only yesterday.
Green eyes held his own, although Barty knew that for years he no longer had a reflection. He was nothing but the mist, wafting within it, memories those of another taunting him endlessly when the mist would briefly clear.
The house-elf prattling on and nodding at him. Several blinks. Winken, Blinken, and Nodd.
He could almost feel the cold from the half-window as the boy continued to look down at him.
“Hamlet, yes. It is my favorite—I used to read it when I was locked in my cupboard and not let out for days. But you are not locked in a cupboard, but something worse. What injustice is this, Bartemius?”
Barty could not answer, his mind no longer his own, but continued to stare upwards, wanting, wishing, willing—but nothing happened.
Slowly he closed his eyes, willing them to hover in between, as the hand continued to stroke at his hair, fingers gently tracing his cheek bones, a nose briefly against his parched lips—if only he could fully recollect what it was like to truly thirst.
The voice unspoken continued, whispering words, nonsense, just letting the thoughts hover between them, a communion of two souls—one that could not understand and one whose understanding had been taken from him.
“I did not think it would work,” the green-eyed one confided. “The book said I was too young, but I wanted to know, wanted to find out. And you. Your name is on the wall, the highest scores ever to be reached in Ravenclaw, and yet I could find so little about you, I just wanted to know, I always want to know. It’s a curse, I suppose, but without it I never would have known what magic was until Hagrid came and got me.”
Shifting—sifting—sifting, nod. A bird, black, perched on the window, sunlight reflecting from its sharpened talons. He could no longer remember what exactly it meant, but it was familiar to him in this mist, so like a place he once lived, where fog hovered over a black lake that he could see from his turret window.
“Your name seemed important—I don’t know why—and I could not find you, so I did this. Do you mind, Bartemius? I won’t do it again if you do.”
Bottle green, not emerald, not jade, staring so passionately at him, and he found himself holding the gaze, breaking a harsh command once uttered to him—look at no one for longer than necessary. We do not wish to see you.
The boy smiled, his hand hesitating briefly at Barty’s temple before soft lips ghosted across his own.
Barty found himself wishing he could smile as the boy grinned shyly down at him.
“The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” the boy muttered to himself, his eyes tracing Barty’s face that he shouldn’t see—Barty was nothing—invisible—no longer here—lost, lost—forever lost in the fog around him, so comforting and yet so hurtful.
Another gentle curse and the blink of Barty’s lazy eyes and the boy was gone as if he had never been there.
The fog, briefly held at bay with the soft touches he had rarely known as a child, now came swirling back again, holding him in a deadly embrace, and he found himself saddened. He found it so easy not to think, not to remember, as he had been told to do—to just wander—exist—nothing—nothing, lost—yet part of him wanted to recollect a soft boy voice, lips unmoving, gentle kisses that must have meant something—so long since he was cherished—mother—mother—where are you now?—why have you left me all alone?—gone, gone, forgotten—except for the bottle green eyes that stared into his unseeing ones.
He wanted to remember the dream he’d somehow conjured in this fog, and gently as he drifted off to sleep, his mind whispered a resounding, “no.”
The elf was in the kitchen making dinner. Or breakfast. Or lunch. Barty didn’t know—his mind could not quite remember the difference anymore. All he knew was bottle green and dark hair and high cheekbones—lips so soft when they kissed his own.
For nights he had wandered about the house, the elf at his heels, looking at the books that lined the walls. He was looking for one—if only he could remember. Curses, Herbs, Law, Nothing—nothing—naught.
“What is Master Barty wanting?” Elf asked. Surely it had a name once, but names no longer matter, not when hands run through his hair that can no longer be seen.
No answer for the elf. Barty cannot speak, though his mind now whispered, no, no, no, no.
Hands reaching up, strangely visible as folds of a cloak fell away, and Barty looked at the titles as he tried to read them all. It had been so long. The harsh voice of his father had never told him he could not read.
No, nothing here. It was different, it was special—if only he could remember.
A non-voice, soft and sweet, childlike, floated through his mind. But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.
“Master Barty is wanting to read,” the elf-voice broke through, and Barty found he was no longer quite as alone. “Master Barty is so good and wanting to read like a good wizard should.”
It did not matter. No one mattered.
No one could see him. No one but the boy with bottle green eyes.
As he lay in bed, later, sooner, before—time no longer existed, not in fog that swirled around him, embracing him, so cold but warmer—warmer than a Dementor—the screams, the screams—the agony—his mother dying all alone—his hands reached out into the wall, a clasp, a switch, and soon the wall was gone.
Letters bundled up, secret, precious, old parchment faded from before the war ended, from his real father, darling, he was loved.
His half-blood father, the father of his heart, gone, gone, so far away—whispers in the dark, shadows in his mind.
The shards of a wand once snapped when he was sent away, his hand could remember what it felt like in his hand, still ached for it, still wondered if his lips would ever speak spells again in the dark nights when the fog was thinnest, when the moonlight could almost shine through to him. His mother had taken him for that wand, once upon a dream—he no longer knew her. Not now. Not ever. She was gone, gone gone. He still had the letters from the father of his heart.
Searching, searching, splinters cutting through his fingers as they clasped around faded paperbacks, trips to the littler store in Little Hangleton, a secret, a note, only he knew, he was the most beloved. Wrong, wrong, the tale is not in winter and only bottle green is fairer than a summer’s day until, there, at last, beneath his fingers—aged—worn—read so many times—Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
He remembered at last, his mind muttering, no, no, never, no.
Slowly Barty closed the panel again, his blood soaking into the wood, careful not to stain, not to stain.
The taste of blood in his mouth as he washed in all away. Alone, alone again.
The elf is gone—good riddance to her.
His heart, breaking, because he could not speak but his chapped lips slowly formed the words—again—again—again.
A father’s ghost, haunted, murdered. Where was his true father now? Lost in the shadows, in the fog, calling to him although he could not answer. He was forbidden to speak…it had been so long.
Barty could feel his lips moving, his eyes tracing the words as the meanings came back to him, whispering through a curse, yes—a curse—a curse he once knew but was forbidden to remember.
Frailty, thy name is woman. A woman who once loved him.
Mother, Mother. Why won’t you let me out?
His bars were no longer made of metal, the stench of prisoners no longer filling his nostrils, but still he was alone except when thoughts of bottle green would visit him. Dream, such a wonderful dream, if only his dream would return to him.
A candle lit with shaking fingers. Barty wasn’t certain where he found the matches, where he found the candle. Perhaps the elf within the tiny house brought it to him, if he had asked, but he could not remember his lips moving, his throat shuddering at words unspoken.
The fog cleared and fell outside the window, taunting him, reminding him that soon he would go back.
He did not wish to return, to then, to now, but still he could feel its sway, the fog calling. It would be so much easier.
He should sleep, the harsh voice wanted him to sleep. It was better for him to sleep at night, but not a command. This was not an order, this he could break, so his bloody fingers held the match and his fingers shook as he held the flame to the candle, before dropping it again on the floor, smoldering against the blue carpet.
Crisp pages, worn, loved, beneath his fingers as he remembered Hamlet, a prince, his father murdered as Barty’s own father-of-the-heart had been. But his would return, he knew he would. Whispers in the dark from a snake, immortality, never truly gone. All he had to do was wait for the green-eyed angel to return. Wings of a crow, of a raven, something he should remember, but no—no—words in front of him. He used to read—this must be read.
Lips hovering above his own—Ophelia insane. Grief, grief for the death of a father. Oh, how he knew it well—weeping in secret in the dead of night before the Dementors came, threatening to kiss him with hardened lips, but no more, no more, he must read, read, read.
A little bird might fly back to his window, he must be clever, the bird must want to stay, stay, stay for longer, stay forever, never leave him alone again.
Candles sputtering about him, casting shadows against his white skin. He could feel it beneath this fingers, beneath a cloak that kept him hidden, kept him invisible. When was it? When was now? How long? How long?
The stars fading above him and his blistered fingers holding the book open as his eyes fell shut. Slowly, slowly—the harsh voice standing in the doorway, staring at him, taking the book from his fingers and looking over the title before setting it down again.
No, no, his mind whispering desperately, but the fog rolled through the glass of the window, cradling him, punishing him with easiness after the long tired night and the memories of Dementors hovering about him.
Rough hands around him before smaller ones, gnarled, take over, pulling the hood over his head, covering it, hiding him from sight, goodnight, goodnight, goodnight. To sleep, perchance to dream—if dreams can come into this world where memories no longer exist and free will is not even a thought. So easy, so easy—now—sleep.
Barty’s eyelids drifted shut as the sun continued to rise high in the sky.
No, he wanted to say, his lips forming the word unspoken.
“Tis now the very witching hour of night,” the voice unspoken murmured, and Barty sighed into his sleep, feeing a hand gently hovering through his hair. So long since the last caress, snow now on the ground, cold, colder, but nothing mattered, not truly, not in the fog that laid him to rest each night.
Slowly, cautiously, Barty opened his eyes to see a smiling boy looking down at him.
“Christmas at Hogwarts is marvelous,” the boy continued, as if Barty had answered him. “So much better than life with Muggles, I can assure you.—And fortunately that know-it-all Gryffindor hasn’t been around to hound my every step.”
Barty looked up at the green eyes in curiosity, the fog pushed back as his mind whispered no, no, no, when it told him to go back to sleep. He simply did not wish to.
“Hermione Granger. Muggleborn. The only reason she wasn’t sorted into our house is because she does not know how to think for herself. Memorizes textbooks and spouts them back to the professor, and then wonders why I get a slightly higher grade on my essays.” The boy smiled thinly down at him before gently lying down beside Barty, still playing with the ends of his hair. “I’ve found nothing,” he confided. “I can’t find anything about you after Hogwarts, why you’re here, why you’re like this. It’s advanced whatever it is.” He stared hard at Barty. “Sometimes it’s like you can’t even see me.”
Barty wanted to reach out, to touch back, to wonder at the boy and how he was here in his father’s house—not his father—the father of his heart was gone from him, for now, for so long. He could not drift again. He needed to speak to this boy, to wonder, to ask—where is the Dark Lord?
His lips could not form the words. Not yet, not yet. This boy was too young, his eyes too innocent, though his mind was sharp.
The boy reached out and touched the faded book that lay against his pillow. His fingers caressed the old words, the title, before flipping it open and reading the inscription. Even through the shadows, Barty could remember it, recall the white hand that dipped the quill into the ink before pressing it against the Muggle page.
“To Bartemius, the Son of my Heart, may you never know this pain,” the boy read, his lips unmoving, but the words echoing around them. “I had a father—once—before he was taken from me.”
Barty tried to move forward, pull the boy closer, but his arms remained unmoving, listlessly lying on the sheets between them, the fingers of his left hand twitching strangely in the darkness.
Bottle green looked down at his slim fingers before clasping them closely, his other hand still running through Barty’s hair.
“It’s dark, whatever this is, Bartemius,” the boy continued, eyes never leaving Barty’s own. “Dark, dark, too dark.—Not that anything in itself can be too dark,” he mused, watching Barty wearily, afraid perhaps of what might be thought.
Dark eyes stared back without reproach and the boy relaxed visibly, biting his lower lip in his relief, before releasing it again. Barty’s eyes trailed down to it, wondering at the softness he thought he had once dreamed, before turning back to the eyes, the eyes, eyes, eyes—so green—almost as if he had once seen them—so long ago—at Hogwarts perhaps—a mother, a father, an uncle—someone now forgotten.
Hushed, hushed, nothing—here—now, then, forever—words—relief—wanting, wanting, craving—hush.
“There are whispers, even in Ravenclaw, Bartemius,” he murmured, fingers laced through his own, pulling him closer as the boy tilted his head upwards so that their lips were almost touching. “Whispers of something that was stolen and hidden at the school—something dangerous—something he might want, Bartemius.” Bottle green bit his lower lip again, plump, soft, wanting, needing, soft. “I don’t think anyone else knows—perhaps the Slytherins, but Malfoy’s never said anything.”
A thought, a whisper of a thought, through his mind—a name he knew—Malfoy. He stored it away in his mind. Nothing mattered now but this intelligent boy whose fingers ran through his hair—so young, so smooth, so uncorrupted as he searched through the darkness.
“Malfoy, though, never says anything important at all unless he’s boasting.” The boy smirked up at Barty, lips quirking prettily. “Odd for a Slytherin, but I suspect the stereotypes only really apply to people like Weasley and Granger—though she would have made the worst Ravenclaw. I wonder what bravery lies behind all of her cleverness, Bartemius.”
Slowly Barty licked his lips, words forming on them, and he could feel a thrumming in his throat, as he murmured the first word he had in decades. “Barty.”
His word was unused, his voice harsh, too gravelly, but at the sound of it, the boy smiled brightly before kissing him softly on the lips. “Barty,” he breathed. “All right, I’ll call you that if you want me to,” he teased before kissing Barty again. “Barty, Bartemius.”
Barty looked down at him expectantly, but the boy simply bit his lip, not answering the silent question for his own name. When Barty continued to stare down at him, chapped lips pressed together, the boy sighed.
“I don’t like my name,” he confessed. “It means nothing, and everyone thinks they know me as soon as they hear it. They thought, well, Dumbledore called me into his office and confessed he thought I would be in Gryffindor just because my parents were. I never even knew them, Barty.” He pulled his hand out of Barty’s hair and traced the lines of his face, that Barty remembered had once been white, so white, paler than a lily though with freckles that he always hated. The boy now seemed to be tracing them, a fondness on his aristocratic face. Suddenly, Barty found that he couldn’t quite mind them any longer.
The fog drew around his mind, causing his eyes to become unfocused, but young, gentle kisses called him back—hushed—soft—stolen in the darkness of the night.
“Come back, Barty. I’m still here,” the boy pleaded with him, a slim arm now pressed around his waist, drawing them together. “It takes me weeks to have enough energy to astrally project—you wouldn’t want to miss me, would you?”
His green eyes, so worried, looked up at Barty, but he could not speak, could not respond, it was too difficult to go against the order, not again, not for a long time. His fingers twitched lightly and the boy relaxed again, his nose brushing Barty’s, light, soft—a caress of sorts from an affectionate child. A boy without a father, just like him—like the father of his heart. Three orphans trapped together, lost, calling, waiting, loving quietly.
A little Ravenclaw with green eyes with a Gryffindor father who had left him to rot with Muggles.
A fire burned within the back of his throat at the thought, wanting to pull the child close, to kiss the messy black hair that fell almost to his shoulders and tell him he was not alone although he himself was lost in shadows, just as his father was wandering somewhere beyond this prison, not yet dead yet not quite alive.
“I don’t even quite know where here is,” the boy confided, eyes pleading for Barty to understand. “I just come where you are, come so only you can see me, Bartemius.”
More sweet kisses pressed against his lips, hands in his hair, his fingers now lax against the sheets as they twitched, wishing to pull the boy closer, this lost soul so desperate for affection that he would brave dark magics to find someone, anyone, who might understand.
A name on the wall—Barty hadn’t known it was still there. How long had he been existing here, in his childhood room, moving about the house without conscious thoughts, only doing what the harsh voice told him to do?
‘Year,’ he mouthed against the child-kisses, hoping the boy would understand. Year, he needed to know the year.
The boy drew back, confusion on his face, his eyes fixed on Barty’s silent lips. “Again,” he murmured, his own fingers resting gently against Barty’s mouth, perhaps to feel even the slightest movement.
Taking a deep breath through his nose, so painful, so pure, Barty slowly formed the word again, only air escaping his lips as comprehension dawned on the boy’s gentle face.
“Year?” he murmured and at Barty’s intense stare, tears welled in his bottle green eyes. Nodding sadly, the boy rested against him, bringing his arms around Barty’s neck as they fell down his cheeks. “Year,” he repeated. “It’s the twenty-seventh of December, 1991, Bartemius. 1991.”
Barty breathed out painfully. Ten years since he was first sentenced to the dungeon on the sea. Ten long years of pain and nothingness, although at least now the nightmares were gone.
This boy in his arms had been just a baby when he was sent away, screaming for his beloved mother, the only person he had left now that the father of his heart was banished by an infant child. His tired mind tried to calculate his age, but it came to nothing, and all he could focus on were the tears that cleansed his neck, the boy’s small hands ruffling his messy hair at the nape of his neck.
There had been a cloak once about his shoulders, hiding him from the world, but somehow this boy who now cried for him could see him—had banished it as effectively as if it had never existed.
“The time is out of joint,” the boy murmured as he pulled away, his water eyes gazing up at Barty in some strange form of devotion he could not quite comprehend. His black hair fell into his eyes and he shook it away, as if it were a long established habit, before sighing. “I think, that apart from forbidden magic,” he confessed quietly, changing the subject, “that the most amazing part of the wizarding world is Quidditch.” He smiled up at Barty, green eyes glowing.
Bottle green, the color of salvation.
A smirk in the darkness, waiting for him once the elf had left, his steps sluggish and unsure as every one of them were thought out by him beforehand, not commanded by the harsh voice.
“Professor Quirrell,” the boy’s lips unmoving somehow said, “is possessed.”
Barty stood, astonished, the cloak swishing about his legs, and stared at the child who sat smugly before him.
“Your cloak is not as nice as mine—I got it for Christmas. I can’t see through it at all when I project, though I can yours. It belonged to my father, apparently,” he scoffed. “He loved me so much that he left me with Muggles who hate magic and gave his most prized possessions to someone else to keep for me.”
Carefully, Barty nodded, bringing a smile to the boy’s face as he leapt up and embraced Barty’s taller form.
“I knew you could do it,” he said happily. “You can’t be the cleverest Ravenclaw in a century for nothing.”
Arms heavier than lead came around the boy quickly, pulling him closer before falling back down to Barty’s side, unused and in the way. He looked down at the small boy who was grinning madly up at him.
“I was looking up possession, for you of course, when I came across the odd symptoms—and they fit the Dark Arts professor. Well, it should be dark arts. They’re far more interesting than defense, I would think. I can’t even get into the Restricted Section. When I snuck in over Christmas for research purposes,” he emphasized, “the books started screaming at me. What kind of bizarre charm is that?”
Barty hummed in response, a light, quiet sound in the back of his throat, which he could now manage easily after months of practice whenever his father and the elf weren’t around.
The elf. She had gone somewhere again. She used to always be by him, taking care of his every little unthinking need, but now—now—he couldn’t quite explain or comprehend. It was almost as if the boy’s presence caused her to remember something else and leave him be.
A small hand wormed its way into his as the boy pulled him forward toward the bed, and Barty sluggishly followed.
“I’m not certain what has possessed him—what would want to possess him—but he was supposedly in Albania before this year so it might have happened there.”
Albania, a memory, a story told over the fire as a snake slithered under his feet, the father of his heart.
A small smile must have peeked through his lips as the boy leaned forward and kissed him again, almost too fondly for a child who wanted a father.
“Albania?” he repeated, assessing Barty’s facial expressions curiously.
Barty blinked longer than was normal and the boy nodded.
“Albania then. You know something about what might have possessed him.”
He didn’t move this time, but bottle green appeared to understand.
The boy looked around the room for some form of inspiration before his eyes rested again on Hamlet, which hadn’t left the bedside table unless Barty himself was quietly reading it, his fingers skimming the lines almost obsessively as he searched for the green eyed boy within the yellowing pages.
“Your father of the heart—is he in Albania, Bartemius?” he whispered quietly, his lips still unmoving as Barty stared down at them, wondering, wondering, how he could hear what the boy meant to say without him having to say it.
Soft child-hands stroked the sides of his face, noses touching each other, two mouths breathing the same air between them.
“I’ll try to look it up more, see if I can find out anything else more specific. Make contact—for you, Barty, if that’s what you want. I’m certain he would know more about whatever’s been done to you than a first year.”
The boy sighed. The pad of his index finger traced a line of freckles across Barty’s nose, his eyes screwed up in concentration as if he were trying to count them.
Barty had tried once when he was at Hogwarts and had found he couldn’t quite manage it.
Soft lips captured his again, surprising him completely, and Barty gasped at the sensation.
“I’d do anything for you,” the boy admitted quietly as he pulled away again. Calculating eyes looked up at him, before he changed the subject. “I’m thinking of putting myself up for adoption,” he announced quietly. “I live with Muggles of all people. My father was a pureblood—and I live with Muggles who don’t want me. What do you think?” He looked up cautiously at Barty, his eyes wide with hope.
He hummed in the back of his throat again, showing his approval.
“I could get a lawyer, I’m wealthy enough, after all, and I could come up with a list of qualities I need in guardians, perhaps, and then—would you look over a list? Surely you’d know who would be good after all?” He bit his lower lip enticingly. “A dark family, I’d think, a nice darker family.”
He leaned up against Barty and threaded their fingers together, prattling on happily. Barty could only look down at the boy, feeling bemused at his intelligent features lit with joy as he confided in perhaps his first true friend.
“I was thinking of asking Malfoy as well. His mum is nice, after all. She sends him a package of sweets each Monday—all his favorites—and I don’t care what Weasley said on the train, surely they can’t be that bad even if his dad was supposed to have supported You-Know-Who. As if that would disqualify anyone,” he huffed.
Barty squeezed his hand more tightly.
The boy glanced up at him, a calculated look on his face. “Were you a supporter?”
He stared resolutely back and simply offered his forearm to the child leaning against him. The boy looked up in slight confusion before taking the arm in his small, almost too perfect hands, and sliding up the sleeve presented to him. He gasped when he saw the faint trace of the Dark Mark on Barty’s skin.
“What does this mean? Is this—this means you’re a supporter?”
Brown eyes held bottle green and the boy swallowed heavily, before nodding again.
“You’d know then—who would be a good family, Bartemius—but I—my mother was a Muggle-born,” he admitted softly, his eyes looking anywhere but into Barty’s own steady gaze. “They were light wizards. Everyone says they were so pure, so perfect, no one could really be like that, though, could they?”
Barty pulled the boy closer and painfully slowly dropped a kiss on the boy’s ruffled hair. No, no one was perfect, especially if they’d left such an intelligent wizard to rot with Muggles all of his childhood.
He lay in bed, unseeing, mist swirling before his eyes as his blood encrusted nails clutched at the sheet beneath him. The elf—Winky—he now remembered was hovering about him again. An old poster on the ceiling of his favorite Quidditch team couldn’t hold his attention, only the thought of the list carefully hidden behind the panel along with his father’s letters and the books that had been given to him, all Shakespeare.
Rabastan Lestrange was ideal, but as far as Barty knew he was still rotting in Azkaban. He was levelheaded, a dear friend, and wouldn’t put up with any of Bellatrix’s nonsense unlike his elder brother. He shivered at the thought. Bellatrix and Rodolphus could not be permitted to get their hands on the boy. He was too dear, too precious. Bella would probably sacrifice him if the Dark Lord asked—she clearly did not possess the proper instincts of a mother.
Regulus Black was gone, Andromeda had married a Mudblood—Nott perhaps. Or Selwyn. A nice old family that could possibly overlook the fact that the boy’s mother had been a Muggle-born, though fortunately it had not rubbed off on him at all. The Malfoys were another possibility, especially given the boy’s friendship with the son. Narcissa Black was the perfect pureblood mother, he suspected. She could recommend others—he’d even made note of it—as long as she didn’t suggest her own sister, though he really couldn’t imagine how Bellatrix could have gotten out of Azkaban.
Anyone, apart from the Weasleys, that the Blacks had married into. His own grandmother had been a Black, though his father had not been touched by her darker inclinations, unfortunately.
A whisper against his face and a voice quietly pressed against his ear brought him back to reality, pushing back to the fog—“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; and thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.”
Barty turned his head to the side and looked into everlasting eyes, marveling at how bright they were, so clear, hidden only by the unruly fringe of midnight black hair that filled his dreams of late.
“Did you miss me?” The boy teased, and Barty hummed in the back of his throat. “I thought so.” He anxiously looked up at Barty. “I tried, I really did, but there was a mirror and I could not get the stone out of it for him.”
Barty’s face must have belied his confusion as the boy huffed and snuggled deeply against Barty’s thin frame.
“The thing that was stolen and hidden—it was the Philosopher’s Stone, Bartemius. I managed to astrally project down there, past all the traps, and I looked into the mirror. He said—the Dark Lord was there and he said that he just needed to get it out, but couldn’t find the secret. He was possessing Quirrel after all.” He bit his lip nervously.
Sighing, Barty managed to give a small smile. The father of his heart was alive—or as alive as he could be given the circumstances—and trying to return.
“I couldn’t do it. The mirror wouldn’t give me the stone—I don’t know why. All I could do was see myself grown up—see myself with you.” The boy blushed at his admission, glancing down before placing a gentle kiss against Barty’s unresponsive lips. “The Dark Lord said it was fine, that was what the mirror was designed to do, and he said—Barty, he wanted me to tell you that he’s coming. He knows of your plight, I told him, and he will free you when he can.”
Barty slowly nodded, relief shining through his eyes.
“He’s your father, isn’t he?” the child whispered brokenly. “The father of your heart?”
Holding him closer, Barty hummed again, a soft, soothing sound, he hoped, trying to reassure the boy.
“When you’re better, will you tell me about him? No one tells me much, only generalities that are just too—clear cut. Nothing’s clear cut, Bartemius. Nothing ever could be, could it? I just—Barty—I don’t know. He killed my parents, and no one will tell me why. He would only tell me that I was too young. He seemed pleased by what I saw in the mirror, though, even though I couldn’t give him the stone.”
Licking his lips, Barty formed the word ‘please,’ still finding it difficult to talk although whenever he held the boy in his arms, his thoughts were clearer than a summer’s day by the Black Lake at Hogwarts. The orders were too strong, too new, he still could not speak, not truly, although now whenever the harsh voice was not in the room he could blessedly think for himself—think and remember.
“Please?” the boy wondered aloud, his mind trying to work out the meaning of the simple word before he nodded in understanding. “The Mirror of Erised. It shows us what we most desire, the secret desires of our heart. Silly mirror. As if anyone would never think of reading the inscription backwards—though I suppose Gryffindors might not think of it in general, even that Muggle-born Granger.” He sighed and snuggled deeper into Barty’s arms, breathing in his scent, which Barty supposed must be some kind of expensive wizard soap. Winky was like that.
Sometimes he really hated the over accommodating elf, though at the moment he couldn’t find it in himself to mind, not when the boy was pressed so close against him.
Whoever his new guardians turned out to be, they’d have to employ all three Unforgivables to keep him away, he decided resolutely. The boy was his, wanted him for some strange reason, the shadow of a man trapped within the prison of his mind—a curse that he knew the name of but could never seem to recollect as he floated in the mist—and no one would take them away from each other.
He sighed happily as small hands reached into his hair again. Now that the father of his heart knew, no one would be able to keep the boy away from the darkness and Barty’s embrace.
Part the Second – Chambers and their Secrets
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.
The aged book lay open beside him as he glanced out the window. He’d tried to leave, tried to press his hand through the window when Winky was elsewhere, only to find a strong ward on the property that shocked his entire arm, sizzling it until it was lightly burnt.
His father had not been pleased when he returned home, but Winky had squeaked that it was an accident, that Master Barty just wanted to feel the wind on his face before it grew too cold, that really Master Barty was so well-behaved. She then proceeded to bandage his arm, her long fingers briefly lingering over the faded Dark Mark that he only wanted the boy to ever touch again.
“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below; words without thoughts never to heaven go,” a soft voice murmured and Barty turned to see the boy perched on top of a book shelf, his Quidditch robes flying about him, his hair ruffled as if by win. “Ravenclaw won against Hufflepuff—again.” He flowed smoothly off of the shelf as he stalked forward.
Barty could see the grass stains on his fingers and wondered if the boy had fallen or perhaps flown a little too near the grass.
Carefully, the boy placed a shivering Snitch on the bed beside Barty. “I thought you might enjoy it,” he admitted. “My research led me to believe that I might be able to take objects when I projected although I’m still sleeping in my bed back in the Tower. An odd form of magic, astrally traveling, Bartemius. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s one of the grayer arts.”
Barty hummed in acknowledgement before reaching out his hand for the boy to take. He’d grown over the summer at least an inch, and it seemed that now he was aware of pureblood styles, he was growing out his wild hair. It was his right after all. As an orphan he was the head of his family, albeit the only member.
“Malfoy’s got onto the Slytherin team,” he continued, settling beside Barty and leaning into his warmth. “Says now they’ll have a Seeker who can beat me; he’s utterly ridiculous, if you ask me, Bartemius.” His lips quirked up into a half-smile as if he were fond of Malfoy. “Michael and Terry want to prank him for it.”
Slowly, Barty lifted his arm and wrapped it around the boy’s back, pulling him slightly closer to him on the bed.
“I actually went to Malfoy Manor over break,” the child continued to prattle. He was now playing with his left sleeve, which looked slightly frayed. Then again, he had been playing Quidditch. Sports robes were notorious for having to be replaced every few games because of the wear and tear despite the extensive charms placed on them. “I showed Mrs. Malfoy your list and everything. Mr. Malfoy also lent me the family lawyer—said he didn’t want Dumbledore hearing of this.” The boy snorted a quiet laugh, leaning against Barty’s taller frame. “I’ll never understand the old man. Did you know that after the incident with the Mirror of Erised, he actually came and sought me out? For no reason! No one saw me, I projected there so there was absolutely no evidence, I wasn’t injured in any way, and the man had the nerve to come and see me as he suspected it was in my nature to be curious like any Ravenclaw would be. Does that make any logical sense, Bartemius?”
He turned his face upward toward Barty’s, his large green eyes bright and questioning, before leaning up and rubbing their noses together.
Barty tried to even out his breathing, not thinking of the beautiful creature who gave him so much affection that he had quietly craved since he was a child, had yearned for, but this—this was different. This was dearer, more tender, more sensual than almost anything he had experienced before, and despite his desire for it, it scared him slightly, to be the one trapped within his mind, watching, waiting, with no control and little understanding.
“Well, I didn’t tell him anything—‘played dumb’ as the Muggles would say,” bottle green spat out, the anger from the incident hanging around the lines of his mouth. “At least the lawyer is good—Mr. Malfoy told me I could be entirely candid about exactly what I wanted, so I told him, and gave him your original list. Everyone was surprised by it and wondering who had given it to me.”
Barty leaned back slightly, staring intensely down at the boy’s open face.
“I didn’t tell anyone, promise,” he amended quickly, too quickly. His cheeks flushed in anxiety, his eyes sparkling wildly in worry made him the most beautiful person Barty had ever seen. “I would never tell, not unless you asked me to, Bartemius. My Barty.”
The child snuggled closer, not minding the heaviness of his still mainly unresponsive limbs, tucking his small hands into Barty’s robes so that his fingers were softly touching the skin beneath. Barty shivered quietly at the contact, bringing an impish grin to the boy’s face as he looked up with far-too-innocent eyes at him.
“So I gave him the list, and told him I wanted a darker family, one that was used to children and caring toward them, and said that I would be personally vetting the candidates along with the Malfoys. There’s another list—I can get it to you if you want—that’s slightly longer than yours. Did you know that Rabastan Lestrange was in Azkaban?”
Barty hummed quietly in recognition. He had hoped that his friend had gotten out, but clearly he was still rotting away in the cold, damp cells.
“The lawyer is making discreet inquiries from them to see if any are interested—and until then I’m spending all my holiday time with the Malfoys. I didn’t even go back to the Muggles, no matter what Dumbledore said,” he mused cryptically. “Crazy old man. I think all the sweets have addled his brains, if that’s scientifically possible.”
He leaned up gently and pressed a quiet kiss to the tip of Barty’s nose.
“Perhaps he’ll retire soon and McGonagall will take his place, though why Flitwick isn’t Deputy Headmaster, I’ll never know.”
Barty silently agreed with the assessment.
The boy stared at him intently and then cautiously reached up, stroking the straw blond hair at Barty’s temple, his eyes never leaving Barty’s own gaze—a quiet question that Barty could not completely understand.
“Do not,” he murmured, “as some ungracious pastors do, show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine, himself the primrose path of dalliance threads. I cannot decide, Bartemius, if this is the steep and thorny way or the primrose path. You, in your silence and soulful eyes, have me so confused—and yet I cannot bring myself to stop thinking of you or even to stay away,” the boy quietly confessed.
Somewhere in the background, Barty could hear Winky quietly murmuring to herself as she cleaned the house, making the conversation almost surreal.
The boy sighed, perhaps knowing that Barty could not give him an answer.
“A Dark Curse—one that takes away free will and abilities—trapped within yourself,” he mused to himself. “And yet you’re breaking through. Quiet, quiet, quietly breaking through, Bartemius. I’ll speak to it though Hell itself should gape and bid me hold my peace.”
His Seeker fingers played with the edges of the invisibility cloak still wrapped around Barty, revealing hints of Barty’s form before hiding snatches of his hands away from prying eyes that were not looking.
So desperately, Barty wanted to reach out, run his hands through the boy’s messy black hair, trace the line of the nose, the high pureblood cheekbones, the soft pouty lips that were too delectable to belong to any child. And green—bottle green eyes staring imploringly up at him, a memory, a ghost, a shadow—he’d seen them before—sometime—somewhere—the time before—before—before—before the boy who was dearer than a child of the heart could ever be.
“Master Barty be eating his dinner now,” Winky squeaked as she came into the room, a tray held in her gnarled elf-hands.
Barty glanced away from her and saw that he was once again alone, a slight indentation in the bed the only sign that the boy had ever been there.
His father stood in the middle of the room, his wand held strongly in his right fist as he stared imperiously about it. There were small signs of Barty’s willfulness scattered about. Winky never noticed and until today, Barty could never remember his father ever entering his private chambers.
Barty found it difficult to move, but now he could think almost without hindrance, remember the feel of hands pressed against his thighs as they were pushed open, wet kisses against his lips as hair fell into his face, light brown curls that were so silky smooth that ran through his fingers like water—another time—another life—all in Azkaban now as he was left here, waiting for the sprite with green eyes to return and love him quietly and softly with a child-wonder he’d never fully possessed.
A handmade calendar hung on the wall, scribbled with different colored ink. Bottle green had illustrated it, sketching with unsure strokes magical creatures, small miniatures that were so unlike the actual being that he had to scratch in a title so Barty would know that this was a phoenix, that a griffin, this a unicorn. Barty adored it.
The sprite’s school holidays were marked off in a bright green and the dates of his visits with a deep purple. Little anecdotes were written over some days—“M caught the snitch against G”—“MB thought she got highest grade”—“S interviewed”—“Little L lost her shoes”—“Hate potions.” It was more of the sprite’s calendar than his own, Barty mused, but he couldn’t mind. The boy was his only connection to the outside world, his entire life, wrapped up in bright smiles and wide-eyed gazes and a mop of black hair.
All of his Muggle books had been pulled up and arranged neatly by the bed, the inscriptions charmed to be remain hidden over a decade ago so his father could not read them. Almost all of them were Shakespeare—The Sonnets—Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep, but now he was reawakened, strumming on his lyre and piercing Barty’s heart so that all existed were green eyes and a little sprite of a Ravenclaw who would whisper all of his secrets when they were alone in the world. Two orphans together, each trapped, one within his mind and the other kept down by filthy Muggles who should never have been given him.
Crouch Sr. moved about the room, fingering the cover of Romeo and Juliet. The sprite hated that play, said that Romeo was too fickle, that he should have remained true to Rosalinde, and all Barty could wonder is if Rabastan would have wanted him to remain true after ten years of imprisonment, and found that he would instead remain true to the boy in his torn Quidditch robes.
“Muggle romances,” Crouch sneered unkindly before continuing on his way. King Lear, Triolus and Cresseida, My hand is ready, may it do him ease, The Taming of the Shrew, lingering slightly over the complete works of Marlowe before continuing on again to a book on light magic, a child’s version of Astral Projection.
Winky should have cleaned it all up—should not have left it about for his father to see, but she was far too loyal to the old man who now would never be Minister for Magic what with the scandal of having a Death Eater for a son.
Eleven long years since he was sent to Azkaban, since his beloved mother died, since the father of his heart was banished into nothingness, a mere spirit possessing half-wit professors.
With ease, he kept the twitch from his lips that would have signaled the only smile he could form in his imprisonment, the fog swirling about their feet, taunting him, whispering—whispering—hush, hush—hush, so easy—sleep, sleep—forget, sleep, now—never, no no no no no no no.
His brown eyes cleared but his father did not notice the change in his son, instead inspecting the Golden Snitch the sprite had given to him earlier that autumn, its small wings unfurling and fluttering in Crouch’s cruel fingers.
His ethereal sprite had tried to aid his true father’s return to power, had looked into the Mirror of Erised to find the elusive Philosopher’s Stone only to see himself grown and in Barty’s arms.
The Snitch was set down again as Crouch continued to move about the room, peering at everything, the wand held tightly in his hand, almost crushing the handle. His hands hovered over the papers on the desk where Barty used to make his school notes, pondering, pondering—wondering, wondered.
Picking one up, he held it in front of his nose and inspected it closely.
Barty remained unmoving as he took in his father’s rigid form, curious if the wizard would understand the list in a gilt hand and expensive parchment. “Selwyns,” Crouch read, his voice gravelly and hoarse, his fingers almost shaking. “Urquharts, Patils, Abbots, Spongens, Malfoys, Flints, McDougals—the Flints? What is this?”
He flipped the page over in his hand, scanning it for any distinctive mark, but it was nothing but a list of gray and dark Pureblood families, no other name, no date, no location, not even a heading to signify that the list was meant for potential families for a dark orphan.
“What is this?” Crouch demanded, brandishing it in front of his son’s face.
Barty stared forward, not moving, allowing the fog to climb higher, higher, slightly higher, whispers, whispers, hushed whisperings—gone, gone, nothing, don’t think, nothing nothing—gone, no no no—never, think, now—staring—gone gone.
Crouch sighed and dropped the precious slip on the floor. He stared into Barty’s unresponsive eyes, searching perhaps for any sign of thought, but obviously found none. He stood erect, sighing, and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
Carefully, oh so carefully as he still had trouble moving, Barty reached down and picked up the precious list. The sprite had brought it to him, a list of candidates who were interested in adopting him.
Barty had been surprised there were so many, especially as the boy was a half-blood, but he looked every inch the pureblood heir and was clearly far too intelligent for his age. He would make a fine edition to any household. He needed to be free of the disgusting Muggles who locked him in a cupboard where all he could smuggle in was an old copy of Hamlet. It was surprising he appeared so well adjusted giving his harsh childhood.
He smoothed out the list and let his fingers linger, remembering how this had been the sprite’s personal copy until he had made a second one, giving this one to Barty. Some of the names on it surprised him—the Patils he had always thought were neutral, but apparently not. Padma Patil, he knew, was in the sprite’s year and in Ravenclaw, though the boy had prattled on that she had a twin sister who was in Gryffindor.
He glanced over at the calendar and stared at it. Halloween, the day the father of his heart first left him, but soon, soon, he would return. Barty only had to wait for that day to be finally set free from the curse that whispered, whispered, whispering words.
“The serpent that did sting thy father’s life now wears his crown.”
Barty looked up from his perch by the window to see the boy—his sprite—flooded by moonlight, lying languorously on the bed, his arms stretched above his head, his neck tilted back as his hair flowed about his pale face. He was the picture of innocent debauchery, his lips moist and parted in a quiet sigh, his eyes lidded, his pajamas riding up slightly to reveal a smooth, taught stomach, his toes curling into the bed sheets. He was so beautiful, so young, so otherworldly to Barty that he found the child almost too enticing to look at.
“My hour is almost come, Barty, when I to sulphrous and tormenting flames must render up myself.”
The lips remained in the same half-moan, no air escaping them as the words rushed about them, traveling directly from thought to ear, leaving Barty enraptured.
“There’s been an attack, Barty, at Hogwarts. A cat of all things—the Squib’s cat. Idiot. Can you imagine, being a Squib and serving as a janitor at a school for wizards? The man must be a masochist. Bloody idiot—but it was his cat of all things. You think whoever opened the Chamber of Secrets would go after Filch and not his ruddy annoying cat—although it is the more intelligent of the two.”
Barty slank forward, laying himself on his stomach beside the boy, his breath ruffling the hair near his right ear.
The sprite smiled up at him, nuzzling their noses together. “Barty, Barty, Bartemius,” he purred before stretching forward like a feline, his nose tracing Barty’s cheekbone and then smoothing a way down to his lips.
“I can hear it, in the walls, moving, the monster that went and petrified the poor kitty cat,” he continued. He left a soft kiss at the corner of Barty’s mouth, causing a shiver to course through him. Barty could feel him smirk against his mouth. “It’s hungry, wanting something, wanting to kill.” The boy pulled himself so that he was now hovering over Barty’s still frame, his green eyes taking in Barty’s white skin and straw colored hair. “You’re so beautiful,” the sprite murmured, before lowering himself down onto Barty. “My Bartemius.”
Quiet kisses were pressed against Barty’s face, one on each of his closed eyelids, several on his parted lips, his chin, his neck, his cheekbones, over almost every freckle the boy could find. All the time the sprite watched him for any reaction and at the twitch of Barty’s lips into his smile, a lingering kiss was placed at the corner of his mouth before soft hands began to stroke his ear and then moved into his hair that had grown long over the years of neglect.
Carefully, the boy untied the cloak that covered Barty, and slipped the hood away from his face, tracing the same path the smooth cloth left. Pushing it from Barty’s shoulder the boy looked curiously up at Barty before placing a quick kiss at the base of his neck, his lips hovering over a pulse point, breathing in the air and the very beat of Barty’s heart.
“I loved Ophelia: forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my love,” the boy breathed as his green eyes held Barty’s darker ones. “Or should I say ‘Bartemius’?”
Shaking, Barty painfully lifted a hand so that it hovered near the boy’s cheek, willing it to remain, to break through the fog that embraced both of them, to touch—feel—forever—now, here—now now.
The boy leaned into the touch. “It’s true, you know. I wouldn’t say it otherwise.”
Barty searched the boy’s face with his eyes, tracing every line, every curve, looking for any hint of falsehood but finding none.
The sprite leaned down and pressed a lingering kiss to his lips, Barty humming happily into the soft and half-innocent sensations.
“And one day, perhaps, when I can give you back your voice, you might say it back to me.” Hope lit up the child’s innocent face, bottle green eyes staring down wistfully at Barty’s still form, a wish lingering on his lips.
Barty hummed in agreement, already knowing that it was the truth.
The little sprite, with his prattling words and sharp intelligence, had stolen all of Barty’s thoughts. His precious little savior, so lithe and beautiful in his arms, as more kisses were placed on his lips and small hands brushed against the side of his neck. He was so innocent, so inexperienced, and Barty wished with all his might that he could kiss the soft lips back, no matter how wrong it was. The child was so young, so inexperienced, so new to the world of magic and yet a master at grayer arts.
Soon a wizarding family would take away the sprite’s attention, and Barty was afraid he would be left only with memories of soft kisses a child had stolen in the dead of night.
No, no, his mind whispered, the sprite would always come back with smirks and suppositions and dark magic clinging to his heart and alight in his eyes. The sprite would always come back and the fog would slowly fade to nothing until Barty could truly hold him in his arms and whisper sweet nothings in his ear.
Doubt thou the stars fire; doubt that the sun doth move; doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.
Humming again, Barty parted his lips and softly kissed the boy back, gently, softly, barely there—a whisper of a kiss, of his true emotions, of his intentions—love, love, lovely loving.
“Colin Creevey. Gryffindor. Mudblood. Petrified,” the boy greeted Barty as he sat down in his lap at the small desk near the window. His legs straddled either side of Barty’s form, his chest pressed against Barty’s, his slender hips rolling up as he reached up for a soft kiss.
Barty, pulling all his willpower together, leaned down to meet the soft lips that sighed against his mouth.
“Lay her i’ the earth: and from her fair and unpolluted flesh may violets spring. I’m not certain that applies to petrified Muggle-borns, to be entirely honest, but such is life as the Muggles themselves would no doubt quote.”
The boy kissed Barty’s lips softly again, humming to himself softly as he lifted himself higher, bringing himself far too close yet still too far away for Barty’s liking.
“Justin Finch-Fletchley. Hufflepuff. Mudblood from a titled family,” he rolled his eyes in mock wonder. “Petrified. Nearly Headless Nick. Ghost. Gryffindor. No bloody idea if he is a Mudblood or not, but I think the monster is a little off his game getting a ghost. For Merlin’s sake, he’s already dead and was too emotionally unfulfilled to actually go on to the afterlife. Honestly.”
A half-laugh-hum escaped from between Barty’s lips and the sprite smiled happily down at him.
“I made you laugh,” he said in wonder, his lips still unmoving though Barty could feel the boy’s sweet breath upon him. “Wonders will never cease, my Bartemius.”
The boy kissed him again, harder, longer, more lingering, drawing a soft gasp into his mouth. Hands reaching into the boy’s black as midnight hair, tainted red almost in the candlelight, an odd combination. It was so difficult to believe that this enticing creature was anything but a pureblood, but there were handsome and striking Muggles, Barty reminded himself as he lost himself in dizzying child-kisses, child-laughs and the occasional child-sigh.
“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove.”
“Not Hamlet,” Barty breathed out quietly, painfully, and the sprite kissed his lips softly once again as a small reward.
“No, but Shakespeare nonetheless, Bartemius.” He paused, thinking for a moment. “If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, absent thee from felicity awhile, and in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, to tell my story. There,” he kissed the tip of Barty’s nose lightly. “That’s Hamlet for you.” He sighed. “Sadly, that Muggle-born Granger hasn’t been petrified. I wish she’d stop quoting facts and figures and maybe something else worthwhile instead. Quotation is about manipulation—making it fit to your meaning, not being a bloody text book.”
Small hands found their way into Barty’s hair and the boy played with the ends of it. It soothed Barty and the sprite seemed to have some fascination for Barty’s hair, perhaps sensing the way it calmed him when he was unable to speak and barely able to move on his own.
“A squib’s cat, two Mudbloods, and a damned ghost—Malfoy has been positively gleeful, I can tell you.”
Barty shuddered at Malfoy’s name. Malfoy. How did he make it out of Azkaban? Whose pockets had he lined? His father’s perhaps? The thought sickened him.
The boy frowned, noticing how tense Barty became. “I’m sorry,” he apologized quickly, kissing Barty’s eyelashes, his hands grasping the sides of Barty’s face, pulling him close to him. “So sorry—I won’t say anything else about Muggle-borns if you don’t want—I just thought—it doesn’t—“
Hearing the panic in the sprite’s voice, Barty pushed the fog away and tightened his arms around the imp, pulling him closer until his lips could grasp the boy’s painstakingly slowly, a soft reassurance of affection and acceptance. The boy tasted so sweet, like the fresh Winter cold, purifying and cleansing—elusive—exclusive—absolute perfection. Barty hummed into the kiss, breathing gently through his nose as he continued to press his lips possessively onto the boy’s, unmoving, soft, yielding—no no no, he told the fog that threatened to swirl around him.
He wanted this—he wanted the boy—the sprite was his and his alone.
A boy without a name, an orphan—his Hamlet, or as Shakespeare had called his own son, Hamnet. An affectionate nickname of sorts that Barty would use until the sprite revealed his true name. The son of his mind, the love of his heart, both child and lover combined in perfect wantonness and innocence.
The boy—Hamnet—drew away and gazed down in adoration into Barty’s dark eyes.
“Not that then,” he commented in wonder, his voice soft and husky at the possessiveness Barty had shown. Hamnet nodded. “It would have been strange for a follower of the Dark Lord,” his voice had shifted deeper at the title of the father of his heart, his eyes widening dramatically, “minded if I spoke ill of Muggle-borns. Though, interestingly, I have heard rumors that He wanted to recruit my Mudblood of my mother—she was supposedly clever—before he killed her.”
Barty gazed at him in interest, trying to find any trace of Muggle origins in the sprite’s face but found nothing. It was too aristocratic—no, the mother must have had little influence apart from perhaps a Muggle name.
A Muggle name—perhaps that was why his Hamnet would not speak it from his own lips. It was a crime to bestow a common vulgar name on those of pure heritage like the little sprite clearly was, though the wench had left him with Muggles. Clearly she had no wizarding pride, the hag—not that she was even deserving of that particular title, however derogatory it was.
“All we need now is a Ravenclaw and a Slytherin Mudblood,” the child continued conversationally. “To be honest, though, I am not certain there are any Muggle-borns in Slytherin—I think the hat would have a heart attack at such a thought.” He chuckled, an innocent and pleasant sound tinged with far too much intelligence for a twelve-year-old. “The hat thought of putting me in Slytherin—You could be great you know, it’s all here in your head, it said.” He looked perceptively at Barty. “But then I never would have seen your name on the wall or come to find you, Bartemius.” The sprite leaned forward again, hesitating just above Barty’s mouth until he turned his lips upward, capturing Hamnet’s gently, unable to do anymore.
The sprite smiled into the soft kiss, pleased with himself.
“Did I tell you?” the unmoving lips asked against his, gentle puffs of air against Barty’s mouth, enticing him, tempting him, giving him all the encouragement he needed to continue to fight through the fog that swirled around the room, coating the bed as if in a dreamland. “I came first in everything last year—the Gryffindor Muggle-born was so angry that she cornered me at the beginning of the year, accusing me of cheating.” He laughed quietly. “Now she’s going and saying I’m the one opening the Chamber of Secrets just because I’m a Parselmouth.”
Barty started at the casual assertion, angling his head upward to look at the boy who was still straddled on his lap, his elbows resting on Barty’s shoulders.
Hamnet raised his eyebrows in question. “The Muggle-borns and Gryffindors and, come to think of it, Hufflepuffs are making a big deal of it—can’t figure out why. I’ve spoken to snakes since I can remember.” He smirked. “Managed to convince a boa constrictor to chase my fat cousin through a zoo just before I got my letter in exchange for setting it free. Was that terribly bad at me?”
Humming in amusement, the sides of Barty’s mouth twitched in an almost smile.
The sprite quirked his own lips. “Thought you’d find that amusing. Anyway, it’s all Malfoy’s fault. We were dueling—Dueling club. That damned Lockhart and his ideas. Malfoy conjured a snake and, well, it wanted to go after Macmillan and his little Muggle-born friend. Lockhart is so incompetent he made it worse, so I talked it out of eating them. Not that I’d mind if it ate the Mudblood, of course. There seems to be far too many of them than to be strictly healthy.”
At his smooth words, Barty could feel the fog slip out the window, clearing his mind, and his hands twitched as they were wound around the boy. Without actively thinking of it, he found himself lifting the sprite higher until he was gasping in excitement and grabbing tightly onto Barty’s shoulders as he was forced to look down into Barty’s smirking eyes.
Barty’s lips twitched into a genuine grin. He rather liked having control over his little sprite—controlling him—making it so his small legs had to wrap securely around Barty’s torso for fear of falling.
“Bartemius,” he gasped, the sound reverberating through his lips that now formed the word in his shock, the first term he had spoken in his travels to this strange cage. “Barty!”
“Hamnet,” Barty carefully responded before leaning upward, sweet lips captured in his own.
The fog gently continued to slip out the window, revealing the books scattered about the room, lists of pureblood families, hap-hazardly crossed off in a child’s delicate hand. Barty knew it would return as soon as the boy left him again, but in that moment as he slipped his tongue between warm child-lips, he found he could not care.
“A violet in youth of primy nature, forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, the perfume and suppliance of a minute—no more,” Hamnet whispered in a laugh as he read aloud from Barty’s copy of Hamlet. “I honestly think that after Hamlet, Laertes is my favorite character.”
They were sitting in the kitchen, Winky somewhere else in the house again. She had gone on and on about how good ‘Master Barty is,’ sickening him, before leaving him to his own devices, saying she had to clean. As long as she didn’t rifle through his private belongings, he did not care. He just wanted the annoying creature out of his sight so that he could enjoy his time with the boy—bottle green—sprite—Hamnet—his—his, his.
Barty glanced down at the short list he was holding from the Malfoy lawyer. One name was starred in a childish hand—a name he recognized. They were gray, slightly dark, not necessarily loyal to the father of his heart, but not detractors. They preferred a dark neutrality or perhaps quiet maneuverings. A good pureblood family and, from what the sprite had told him, they already had a child a year above Hamnet at Hogwarts, so he would not be alone or have the pressure of being an only child needing to live up to their particular standards.
The sprite looked over his shoulder and smiled. “Urquhart. I rather like Lavinia. Decent Keeper—she’s on the Slytherin reserve team.” Hamnet hesitated. “They want a son—someone to take their name. An heir. I don’t like my Muggle given name—I thought I’d take Hamnet. Hamnet Iacomus Urquhart. What do you think?” Apprehensive green eyes met Barty’s and he smiled quietly at his sprite as he slowly lifted a hand to rest in the mop of black hair. Moving was still difficult, but he could do it without actively willing it into being.
Hamnet smiled up at him before leaning forward for a kiss.
Barty, in his youth, had never come across anyone so affectionate, so starved for love completely, but he found himself wanting to indulge the boy’s every desire and longed for the sprite’s touch almost as much as he suspected Hamnet desired his.
Small hands cradled his face and pulled him closer as the kisses became more bold, a child-tongue gently tracing his lower lip in half-innocence, half-seduction, and Barty opened his mouth to allow Hamnet access to his mouth, humming in his usual way of approval as Hamnet tentatively explored beyond his lips.
The boy moaned and arched into the touch as Barty slowly kissed him back, claiming control of the quiet seduction, pulling Hamnet’s body toward him. He settled himself between Hamnet’s legs as the sprite sat on the kitchen counter that was strangely designed for humans although Winky was the only one who cooked for the family or one of the previous Crouch house-elves.
Hamnet finally pulled away gasping, which fascinated Barty as despite the sprite’s solid form, he was nonetheless a projection and not in his physical body, and therefore shouldn’t have to draw breath. His Ravenclaw mind was intrigued and, he decided, as soon as he found a way out of this prison, it would bear further research.
The boy reached up for another kiss, his fingers trying to untie the cloak and simultaneously press beyond the wizard robes to the white skin beneath, but Barty quietly shook his head. “Too young,” he admonished.
He instantly wanted to kiss away the pout that formed on Hamnet’s soft lips. The child really was too seductive for a mere twelve year old.
At the quiet reproach in Barty’s eyes, the sprite sighed and nuzzled Barty’s cheek affectionately in acquiescence.
“The Muggle-born’s been in the hospital wing for some reason,” he began conversationally, trying to ease the longing that hung between them. “Word has it she tried to illegally concoct a batch of polyjuice and accidentally used cat fur instead of actual human hair.” His bottle green eyes gleamed in satisfaction. “I have a feeling she was trying to infiltrate Ravenclaw as she has been rather insistent I am the Heir. It’s typical that she wouldn’t actually check the hair before using it—and I was suddenly away at the Urquharts’ home for part of the holiday, and then the Selwyns’.”
Barty rubbed the back of Hamnet’s neck in comfort and the sprite almost seemed to purr at the affectionate gesture.
“It’s rather odd—Granger’s only friend is this pureblood—the Weasley girl. Weasley follows me around everywhere. Sent me a Valentine and everything, Bartemius. It was quite grotesque, though we all got a good laugh at it.” He smiled, a slight blush on his face that Barty quickly kissed away with small, exact movements.
Hamnet Iacomus Urquhart. It fit his intelligent little sprite—the suspected Heir of Slytherin. So beautiful, so perfect, far too intelligent as he planned and schemed in Barty’s arms.
‘Love you,’ he mouthed against smooth lips. He had never almost spoken truer words.
Part the Third – Azkaban and her Prisoners
“But br-break,” Barty enunciated slowly, his lips pressed together, a flip of the tongue an agony of motion, “my heart, f-for I must h-hold—“ He sighed, upset at how childish he sounded, stuttering over words as the fog that swirled across the bookshelves whispered for him not to speak, but he denied it “—m-m-my tongue.”
A feline smile crossed his lips as he stared at his reflection in the mirror, the folds of the invisibility cloak falling away from his face. He was older than he remembered, but it had been so many years since he was first thrown into prison, weeping for his mother who was now no more, so many years as his ethereal sprite first was handed over to Muggles and forced to live in ignorance. Thank the darkest of magics that he was so intelligent and was able to not perhaps recognize his magic, but at least begin to understand it through his curiosity and manipulate it to his will. Without such a talent, he would have been nothing more than a common Muggle-born, albeit with better blood, ignorant of his heritage and the power that a pureblood surname could yield with features like his.
His image smiled back at him and he took in his appearance. Long limbs half-hidden in unnatural invisibility—pale skin so white that it almost glowed in the sunlight—a mop of straw blond hair, soft to the touch, falling into his deep brown eyes—a long nose—freckles—full lips that adored being kissed, but almost as pale as the rest of him. The perfect pureblood, trapped in the Imperius Curse by his own whelp of a father—if Barty could even tell him that.
For years, before all of this had come to pass, he had thought of him almost exclusively as “Crouch Sr.” in his mind. He knew it made him cold, but the man who called himself his father was even colder. Politics had been his life and his obsessive desire to one day be Minister for Magic.
Well, if he had, Barty thought, perhaps the oversight of Hamnet’s guardians wouldn’t have been allowed to carry on for so many blasted years. Whoever the minister was now should hang for allowing a pureblood heir to live with Muggles even in his blood-traitor parents had desired it. It was disgusting. Just the thought of it caused bile to rise in the back of his throat, choking him, cutting off his air—
—And then for it to continue even after Hamnet entered wizarding society. A cupboard, he mentally growled, remembering the ramblings of his little sprite when he first appeared here in his childhood home. Muggles locking a wizard child in a damned cupboard! As soon as the father of his heart returned to his full power, he knew the Dark Lord would torture them before locking them in even smaller cages for the rest of their pathetic lives. Only then would Barty be partially mollified. He only prayed his Master would allow him to torture them himself and avenge Hamnet’s honor—unless ‘bottle green,’ as Barty had once called him in his mind, wanted the task for himself.
He glanced at the calendar on his wall. It was the twenty-second of June—a day that was highlighted with some strange Muggle pen so the entire day was yellow.
Another smile twitched on his lips. It was the day that all the papers were going to be signed and sealed at Gringotts so that no one could interfere. Today Hamnet Iacomus Urquhart would come into existence and whatever name the sprite’s Mudblood mother had given him would be discarded like the rubbish that it was.
The last time Hamnet had appeared on the Crouch estate, sitting in a tree as Barty rested by a lake (Winky was off somewhere but thought that he needed ‘fresh air’), Barty had given the sprite a carefully crafted letter that had taken him months to perfect so that his handwriting would not shake in the least, asking for permission to court their future heir when he came of age. He’d managed to couch it in terms so that they could easily read that he was a pureblood, dark, and an heir to a powerful family without actually using his name or his seal that he had found locked away in a drawer of his father’s desk. He had, after scrambling through an old trunk whenever Winky wasn’t about, found his grandmother’s signet ring—the Black family ring—and had chosen to use it in the place of the Crouch seal. His father wasn’t his father after all and his mother—well—it was still too painful to think of her, wondering where she had gone, how she had departed this world, where her body now rested.
The parchment had been heavy, woven together from Acromantula Silk and fairy dust. Only the wealthiest of purebloods could afford it. It was precious, costly, and hopefully the Urquharts would recognize it as a sign of his true regard for Hamnet, which was unending.
Barty hadn’t cared for much before he was sent to Azkaban at the age of nineteen. He had adored his mother, worshipped the father of his heart, but apart from a passing affection for his then-lover and his friends, he felt little for his fellow mankind except for disgust for Mudbloods that the Dark Lord had carefully cultivated and Rabastan had encouraged through Muggle-baiting and the torture of blood traitors.
He had enjoyed and reveled in every moment of it. Hopefully, once his identity was fully revealed, the Urquharts would not object too strenuously. He was, after all, convicted of using the Cruciatus Curse on two purebloods and suspected of other Death Eater activity—a blanket charge that was meant to put fear into the hearts of the masses while not actually meaning much of anything. Death Eaters were just as likely to get together for afternoon tea, proudly proclaiming their own blood lines and showing off their heritage of wealth, than go off and maim Muggle children. They weren’t complete savages after all.
His left hand twitched, wishing a wand were pressed within his long fingers. One day, he promised himself, one day. Until then he would dream of a wand, imagine one so that it was almost real to give him comfort, and holding the sprite’s hand closely in his own, more precious than a hundred wands, so perfect, so smooth, so young—his his his—all for the taking.
He glanced at his reflection again, turning his head carefully from side to side, taking in the pureblood high cheekbones, the slightly hollow cheeks that brought a strange sense of distinction and prestige to his profile, the smooth chin that Winky carefully shaved every morning much to his disgust. Even if he could hold a wand or a Muggle razor steady enough to perform the task himself, he still could not give any hint other than the various books and papers lying around that the Imperius Curse now barely affected him.
Barty could think, breathe, nearly move about with barely a thought, though his speech still proved difficult—but that was only a matter of time. The curse was weakening, weakening, goodbye—adieu—farewell—near gone—
The fog barely held him now, only hindered the final break that was only a matter of time. Within a year, he thought, he would be able to fully cast it off, leaving his father none of the wiser, and all thanks to his beautiful Hamnet.
Quaking, he brought his hand up to his face and traced the line of freckles across his nose. He’d inherited them from his mother, he remember listlessly to himself. She had given him his freckles, his father his eyes, his paternal grandmother had given him the blond hair that occasionally ran through the Black family lines. If he remembered correctly, his distant cousin who married Malfoy—the bastard—had the same pale blonde hair, though not as light as her husband’s or, he suspected, her child’s.
Barty idly wondered how long it would take for the Urquharts to respond to his letter. Courtesy dictated that they consider it and within six months give him an answer, even if it was to delay until they had properly met him or Hamnet was older than twelve—or thirteen.
A small frown played on his pale lips. Barty wasn’t quite certain exactly when the sprite’s birthday was, only that it was during the summer, possibly in August as it was quite late, so close to the school year that he’d only had a matter of weeks from when he first received his Hogwarts letter and boarded the Hogwarts Express.
Barty had waited before. He was awaiting his lord, for Hamnet to grow up, for the curse to be completely broken—no no no no, he told the fog that whipped about his ankles—for an answer. All he had done for years was wait, although he’d been too lost in mindless commands to know it.
He could wait just a little bit longer, he found.
“Frailty, thy name is woman!” the sprite crowed happily as he looked through the open window at Barty, who was sitting once again at his desk, a quill in his trembling fingers. “The youngest Weasley, it turns out, has been expelled—if you can believe it.”
Barty looked up and squinted at the sunlit halo that surrounded the sprite, making him look even more otherworldly as his bottle green eyes shone in happiness.
Pulling himself agilely through the open window, the boy sat on the sill and regarded Barty briefly, before continuing, an occasional tilt of the head the only movement he made as words unspoken reached Barty’s mind. “There were rumors, of course. Granger—in her infinite bookish Mudblood wisdom—found her using a dark artifact, some kind of diary that actually wrote back to her if you can imagine that, Bartemius. She then turned Weasley in—and when it was brought up in front of the Board of Governors, Weasley was expelled for it. Of course the Mudblood was weeping later on. Weasley, after all, was her only friend,” he scoffed, bringing a smirk to Barty’s lips.
Hamnet swung his legs, his childlike energy almost infectious.
“I got the four-one-one, as my wonderful Muggle ex-aunt would say,” Hamnet sneered, “from Malfoy. His father’s on the Board after all. No one’s quite certain what the book is exactly, but it was causing her to open up the Chamber it seems. Imagine that. Little blood traitor Ginevra Weasley, the agent of the Heir of Slytherin. Malfoy says they can’t even figure out how to destroy the artifact and have had to turn it over to the Ministry—most likely the Unspeakables. I hear they deal in that sort of thing.
“Then, if you will believe this,” Hamnet continued, briefly biting his lower lip, “Dumbledore sent for me. Honestly—he sent for me of all people. It was surreal. He seemed to think I had some sort of connection to Weasley because she sent me a bloody Valentine dwarf-cupid-hybrid-abomination. He wasn’t too pleased when I referred to her as a blood traitor not worth my time. Was that wrong of me, Bartemius?” he teased, as Barty slowly got up and walked toward him, placing his pale hands on the sprite’s hips. “It wasn’t, was it?” his mind whispered softly into Barty’s ears. Hamnet’s green eyes glittered. “You, in fact, like it, I’d venture to say.”
Barty hummed in the back of his throat before leaning down cautiously and capturing Hamnet’s sweet child lips with his own. Placing his trembling hand carefully against the sprite’s cheek, he willed it to open, pressing his quivering tongue against the boy’s soft petal-lips and delighting when they parted obligingly.
He tasted Hamnet’s sweet essence, so innocent, like lilacs on a summer day with a hint of cocoa, as he sliced his tongue dominantly against his little sprite’s, drinking in every moan and gasp Hamnet produced as he clutched desperately at Barty’s straw colored hair, pulling him close—closer—close close.
Barty felt a slight shiver run through Hamnet and pulled him closer, warmth pooling in his nether regions as he held the perfectly innocent boy who seduced him so completely. When Hamnet began to rub against him, Barty slowly pulled away and looked adoringly into a bottle green gaze.
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue, his heart wept, wishing to whisper sweet nothings into Hamnet’s ear, tell him his thoughts, responded to his small stories and let him know that he, at least, cherished him and would never stop—but it was all for naught.
Not yet—no—no no no no—soon—no.
The bright sun seemed to dim as the fog rolled around them, pulling Barty deeply under, nothing—nothingness—no memories—just sleep—exist—no no.
Soft hands tugged at his hair as child-lips claimed his again, pressing, nipping, biting innocently—moans from a young throat that shouldn’t know how to sound so wanton—a young body pressed decadently against his as an erection slid against his stomach—kisses bring him back, sunlight—no no no—he kissed Hamnet back again, his hands holding steadily to young hips that rocked against him.
“Bartemius,” the boy near-gasped, puffs of breath in his ear, enticing him to stay.
His eyes cleared and he gently nuzzled Hamnet’s nose in a quiet apology, a sad hum in his throat as he gazed briefly out the window, the fog swirling around the ancient ympe-tree that had been old even before his parents were wed.
Hamnet ran his hands, calloused from Quiddtich and potions and herbology, down across Barty’s cheeks, lovingly stroking, assuring himself almost, that Barty was truly before him and not lost again to whatever magic the boy knew took away his sense of self and will.
“You’re here, still here, my Barty,” his mind hummed pleasantly and Barty kissed the fingers that briefly settled against his pale lips. “Still here, mine, mine, my Bartemius.”
The child leaned up and left a lingering kiss against Barty’s lips, breathing in the same air, so chaste and so pure that Barty knew his heart could easily break from such true affection if he let it.
“Her brother—Ronald Weasley—is so upset, I’ve heard,” Hamnet began to prattle again, settling into their familiar routine of light touches, gentle kisses, and Hamnet’s narrations of his world at Hogwarts.
Barty found it comforting, perfect. They were at complete ease together, a quiet loving that did not need love sonnets or grand declarations, only looks from eyes and hums in the back of the throat.
“Gryffindor is short a Weasley. The tragedy!” He paused. “Lavinia is quite pleased, though she’d never say it. The Weasleys are notoriously good at Quidditch and, well, now there’s one less. It will also serve to demoralize the Weasley twins who are Beaters for Gryffindor.—I’m adopted now.”
Soulful green eyes met Barty’s sure gaze.
“It’s official. Hamnet Iacomus Urquhart. I have my own room, and share a house-elf with Lavinia. He sneaks us cakes in bed for our parties when we research or scheme. Harpy. Much better than Winky—no offence.”
They briefly smirked at each other.
Barty reached up and ran his fingers through Hamnet’s long hair. His sprite sighed at the treatment.
“They have a large dark library that they let Livy and I have access to, but we’re not allowed to try any new spells or rituals without some form of supervision,” he complained, leaning against Barty’s chest, his arms disappearing within the invisibility cloak, making a rather perplexing sight, Barty was sure, if anyone else were to observe them. “Oh!” he squeaked, pulling away and taking out a folded piece of parchment from his beautiful dark blue robes that, Barty noted, bore the Urquhart crest in the corner, marking him as a member of the clan.
Barty thoroughly approved. The Urquharts should keep him almost exclusively in marked robes for at least eighteen months when he wasn’t at Hogwarts to proclaim his new status—it was to be expected, otherwise they would be showing they were ashamed of Hamnet and did not truly consider him family. He couldn’t bear it if his sprite weren’t properly appreciated after those blasted Muggles, but he was certain at least Narcissa Malfoy would have made certain Hamnet only ended up with a family that would properly prize his intellect and his birth father’s lineage.
“The official announcement,” Hamnet declared as he gave it to Barty, who put it aside for later.
He wouldn’t waste his precious time with his sprite with something he could read in the long hours he spent alone.
The sprite pouted playfully before a smirk spread across his lips.
“Mother and Father—I get to call them that,” he whispered, betraying his excitement in actually having real parents who would give him the affection he deserved, “have read your letter and are discussing it, though they are at a loss as to your identity. Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief.”
Barty smirked fondly down at Hamnet, touching their noses briefly together at his teasing.
“In all due brevity,” he laughed, a soft sound that went straight to Barty’s heart, “they are pleased that you have asked for a courtship and not marriage. They’re rather against the idea of arranged ones, after all, and will most likely say ‘yes’ once they ask for my opinion.” He smirked lightly. “Livy says they’ve always asked her once a candidate meets with their approval. Of course, a suitor has never met with Lavinia’s, but that’s entirely different.—She appears to be rather selective.”
With a slight grin, Barty lifted Hamnet into the air, to a stream of happy laughs erupting from between his lips. “Bartemius!” he cried happily as he hung on before the sound of crashing china interrupted them.
Looking quickly—or as quickly as Barty could manage—over his shoulder, Barty saw a befuddled Winky staring directly at the boy in his arms. A moment later and his arms hung as dead weights against his sides, Hamnet disappearing with a shimmer of air.
It was late at night, so late that the moon appeared to be weeping through the half open window. He flexed his arms, feeling the house-elf binds that he was now subjected to throughout the day and at night.
“It’s for yours own good, Master Barty,” Winky would say before trying to force-feed him one of her meals.
At least she hadn’t told his father about the strange ghost-like boy he had been holding in his arms—the other week? last month?—Barty didn’t know. He couldn’t remember. He’d been too long like this.
Waiting—waiting waiting—the fog kept at bay out by the lake, no longer haunting him except when he drifted off to sleep.
No no no no.
He’d never gotten to read the announcement Hamnet had brought. It was tidied up and sitting unobtrusively on his desk with his other papers now that he was incapacitated by the damned house-elf.
The curtains fluttered and a breath was released into the air, a light voice teasing at his mind— “To die, to sleep, —No more; and by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, — ‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep, — To sleep, perchance to dream.”
A sob, torn from a young throat, wrenched through the room and suddenly bottle green eyes were staring plaintively down at him, tears in that haunting gaze. “By the gods, Bartemius, what has been done to you?” Calloused fingers fluttered against his wrists, trying to pull them away from the unnatural position Barty found himself in, only to have Hamnet sob again when he found he could not move him. “Darling, sweetheart,” Hamnet moaned, his hands now coming and cupping Barty’s face, gentle kisses tracing the tear tracks that had long since dried. “I’m so sorry. So sorry. I’ll get you out—I swear. Father—or Mr. Malfoy, surely. Anyone. Oh my gods.”
His lips trembled as they parted against Barty’s, a soft tongue darting out which Barty silently accepted, comforting the young boy who was now weeping for him.
“Shhh,” he whispered against Hamnet’s lips, willing him to quiet and be at peace.
“What did this?” the boy’s frantic eyes asked and Barty stretched his neck so that he was now looking down at his sprite. “What did this to you, Bartemius?”
He licked his lips and slowly formed the word, a mere breath giving it life, “Elf.”
Hamnet’s green gaze widened considerably. “A house-elf did this to you?” His hands came up and stroked Barty’s face lovingly, trailing over the dry lips and over the pureblood nose. “Damn it to hell for doing this to you, my Bartemius.”
Leaning back he snapped his fingers once and, with a soft pop, another house-elf appeared, unfamiliar to Barty. He arched an eyebrow in question, but Hamnet was turned away from him, looking at the new arrival. Barty supposed the creature must be Harpy—or Happy—the Urquhart children’s personal elf.
“Harpy,” Hamnet greeted, answering Barty’s unasked question. “A house-elf did this to him.”
The small elf came up, revealing its bat-like ears and large tennis ball eyes, inspecting Barty closely before glancing back at Hamnet. “What is little master wanting Harpy to do? He is not of little master’s house.” His voice was high pitched, but not as annoyingly so as Winky’s, and every few moments the elf would blink as it glanced inquisitively between the two of them.
Hamnet rolled his eyes. “Release him, of course.”
The elf looked at his master speculatively. “Master and mistress will be most glad if they knows little master can project astrally. Little master brings great honor to the House of Urquhart.”
The boy bit his lip nervously. “Harpy—“
“Master and Mistress will not let me serve anyone not of family,” he replied distinctly, bringing a moan from Hamnet’s throat. “But if little master will tells them of his magic, Harpy will gladly make exception for little master.”
“Manipulative elf,” Hamnet whined in fondness. He glanced back at Barty and with a gentle kiss to his parted lips, slid off of him. “I promise,” he whispered into the otherwise quiet room.
Harpy nodded imperiously and, after eyeing exactly how Barty’s limbs appeared to be placed, snapped his fingers once, freeing him of the invisible bonds. “Bad elf who hurts master,” he muttered under his breath. “Elf never hurts member of family. If little master no longer needs Harpy?”
The sprite dismissed his elf with a flick of his hand, his attention riveted on Barty’s form as he slowly sat up, feeling the blood flow back to his wrists. He flexed them experimentally just as he found his arms full of a still upset Hamnet.
“How could—it was horrible seeing you like that—I thought—if I just left that the stupid elf would think it was imagining me—never—my Bartemius.” Small kisses were pressed all across Barty’s face, a small one lingering on his chin, as Hamnet assured himself of Barty’s well being.
“Shh,” Barty continued to sooth as he held Hamnet close, his hands running up through the dark black hair. It now reached just past Hamnet’s shoulders, a wild mess of half-curls and dark red streaks that clashed beautifully with his green green eyes and high cheekbones. If Barty did not know better, he would swear the child in his arms was too beautiful to be simply human.
Slowly, Hamnet’s sobs lessened until he rested limply in Barty’s arms, breathing evenly and quietly as Barty continued to stroke his hair, wishing he could say something—anything—to ease his mind.
“T-tell me,” he managed to say, barely, the fog licking at the edges of his mind that had been left screaming as he remained trapped on the bed for so long, “b-b-bout—“ He took a deep breath, but couldn’t manage anymore. Not after being prey for so long, lost without his sprite.
Hamnet sniffled once before looking up through dark lashes. “About my year?”
Barty stared down at him, his dark eyes agreeing with the statement.
The boy quickly sat up, his arms casually wrapping around Barty’s neck. “Actually, this might amuse you. Death Eater Sirius Black has escaped Azkaban.” He waited dramatically for a reaction, but when Barty just stared down at him in shock, Hamnet continued. “The ministry thinks he wants to—kill Harry Potter, but he’s only gone after Gryffindor House. Attacked the portrait that guards their Common Room. P-Potter wasn’t even sorted into that House.”
Barty’s dark eyes asked inquisitively which house the great Harry Potter found himself in, but Hamnet ignored him, instead continuing.
“Isn’t that great though?”
He looked expectantly at Barty who simply shook his head in response.
Hamnet looked up at him, clearly confused. “Why not? I—I thought you’d be glad.” He paused and then nodded decisively. “Quite right. He did murder thirteen people with a single curse—probably not the wisest action to take with that many witnesses.”
Barty hummed in the back of his throat, an almost laugh at Hamnet’s logical—yet incorrect—supposition.
“There are Dementors placed around the school for our protection—but they went and attacked during a Quidditch match. It’s absolute madness. Fortunately it was a match between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff otherwise Father would have had someone’s head. He’s furious as it is and threatening to pull us both out and send us to Beauxbatons.—Mr. Malfoy is thinking of bringing a vote of no confidence against Dumbledore in front of the Governors, at least according to Malfoy.” He shrugged. “Then again, he is a Muggle loving old man. Livy was saying how fifty years ago we used to have Yule off instead of Christmas. Then again, the governors did agree with the change at the time.” His voice trailed off and he kissed Barty soundly on the lips. “Granger’s been depressed all year. Padma Patil’s sister is in her year in Gryffindor,” he continued, “and word is that she’s thinking of withdrawing from Hogwarts and going back to a Muggle school. She’d have to get tutors I assume, what with being behind three years in mathematics and literature.”
Barty smirked down at Hamnet, his hands still lost in the mass of messy black curls. Carefully, he skimmed his thumb over Hamnet’s right ear, delighting at the shiver it caused to ripple through his young body.
“Imagine—two little witches together in a Muggle school—a blood traitor and a Mudblood. How utterly quaint. I’ve thought of asking her about it myself. Let me be cruel, not unnatural; I will speak daggers to her, but use none.—or a wand, I suppose.”
Green eyes sparkled happily up at him, and Barty gave his first genuine smile in twelve years, and, thinking back on Hamnet’s words later that night just as the sun was about to rise, Barty found he couldn’t have agreed more.
“What if this cursed hand were thicker than itself with brother’s blood, — Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens to wash it white as snow?” The words slid over Barty, haunting him, whispering within his mind as the fog became nothing but a distant memory. Soon, he told himself, soon—soon soon—he would be completely free.
“I thought it odd when I received a Firebolt of all things for Christmas,” Hamnet continued as he walked from the shadows behind the door, his eyes shining in the noon light. “It was him—all along—I thought—I thought it was you somehow.”
Barty moved up behind Hamnet and swept him into his arms, kissing him fully on his sweet heavenly child-lips. “Wh-what was me?” he inquired.
Hamnet beamed at him. “You can speak!”
“I-It’s been f-five months, H-Hamnet.”
The sprite looked guiltily up at him, but Barty simply kissed him softly in a quiet reply.
Cautiously, Hamnet reached up and traced Barty’s parted lips, smiling to himself when Barty caught his thumb playfully between his teeth.
“Wh-Who gave you t-the Firebolt?” Barty asked after several long moments as he stared intently at the boy who was now sitting on his lap. He was once again wearing robes with the Urquhart crest, though this time they were a dark silver lined with what appeared to be a midnight blue.
“Sirius Black. Apparently, he’s my godfather. The backstabbing, traitorous—he’s a blood traitor, you know. It’s almost as if he’s gone and double-crossed everyone. My blood parents—his family—they were dark you know, really dark. One was even a Death Eater.”
Barty smirked. In his ire, Hamlet had actually begun to speak, his pink lips engaging in a dance as speech flowed easily from him, making him less a dream to Barty and more a reality.
“I can’t—it’s just—unbelievable! First he was supposed to have practically killed my parents—but it’s actually worse,” he fumed, his nostrils flaring in indignation.
Barty regarded him curiously. Nuzzling their noses together to calm his little sprite, he breathed out, ‘How?’
Hamnet leaned into the touch, his eyes closing in contentment, as Barty’s lips ghosted over his, noses touching, affectionate, innocent, almost—now, near—soft—
“He’s my godfather,” he breathed out in resignation. “The person my parents trusted—and he left me with—Muggles.”
The sunlight caught the ends of Hamnet’s hair, making it erupt in a fiery red, the black almost a forgotten memory wherever each ray kissed the soft messy curls, entrancing Barty and keeping them both trapped within that moment until Hamnet huffed out in indignation.
“B-Black left you w-with—“
“—With Muggles, yes. What were my blood parents thinking? He just—handed me over without a second thought,” he sneered before nipping lightly at Barty’s lower lip when he shifted. “And he won’t call me anything other than that horrid—dreadful—common name. Aunt Petunia—my mother’s Muggle sister—was right at least in that. My name is disgustingly plebian.” Hamnet sighed. “It’s disgusting—he’s disgusting. I don’t care whether he’s innocent or guilty.” Warm green eyes looked up at Barty. “I know what you did—you’re supposed to be Azkaban, you know. According to official Ministry records you died in 1982.”
Barty couldn’t contain his gentle smile before reaching down and kissing the tip of Hamnet’s nose.
Cold hands snaked their way up Barty’s neck, brushing, soft, teasing, perfect, perfect soft—gone—up, soft, just beneath his ears and then into his hair, pulling him down into a warm and searching kiss.
When Hamnet pulled away, a soft smile graced his lips, reaching his sparkling eyes. He sighed out in contentment before settling himself securely against Barty’s chest.
“Black—despite the fact that he’s been stealing copies of The Daily Prophet—didn’t know I had been adopted. He wanted to take custody of me. Now that he’s innocent. Of course not. Let’s just waltz out of Azkaban and think that everything will fall into place. If I hadn’t seen his bare forearm, I would have assumed he was lying about not being a blasted Death Eater. Bastard.” He snuggled closer and Barty’s long fingers once again found their way into red-black hair, the coarseness of the strands heightening the reality of the situation for him. “Then he had the audacity to think that perhaps I was happy with my aunt. My Muggle aunt who doesn’t even acknowledge me as family. I can probably count the number of times she didn’t call me ‘boy’ or ‘freak’, Bartemius—I just—“ He ground his teeth together angrily.
“H-Hamnet Iaco-comus Urquh-hart,” Barty stuttered reassuringly, his mind quietly and slowly breaking the last ties the Imperius Curse had to his mind.
“Hamnet,” the sprite replied with a slight upturn to his lips. “Your Hamnet—you named me, Bartemius.”
Light hands brushed over Barty’s cheekbones, bringing a matching smile to his mouth.
“Yes, Bartemius. Your Ravenclaw. Only yours.”
They rested in silence, the afternoon light falling across them, and briefly Barty saw Winky hovering near the doorway, looking in on them. He was not quite certain what changed, what happened—if Hamnet did something to the house-elf, threatened her somehow, or even ordered Harpy to perform some form of magic on her—but she hadn’t bothered either of them since.
She would just stand there, on the outskirts of a room or just beyond a window—listening, watching, wringing the tea towel between her small elf-hands, muttering almost.
Barty found he could not mind. Anything to keep him being held by invisible chains, the fog swirling around him, threatening to once again overtake his mind and make him lose-lost-losing Hamnet and all his memories of their time together in the never ending mists.
Hamnet, perhaps at a stray thought, sat up almost instantly. “Peter Pettigrew.” His lips unmoving, pursed together half in distaste, half in excitement. “He’s alive—he was living as a rat, hiding in Ronald Weasley’s bed as his pet all these years. Is that even legal?”
He thought it best not to answer, his hand still in Hamnet’s messy black hair, knowing that this here—this now—wasn’t strictly legal depending on who was trying the case. A pureblood judge would throw it out as long as the child’s parents gave consent, as long as the child instigated everything as Hamnet had—but still—still—now now—Hamnet was raised initially as a Muggle. This should be outside of his range of understanding, comprehension—and yet he had come and found Barty when he was only eleven years old, so young, so very very young—fresh, sweet—innocent yet far too clever. Perhaps that was it. A Gryffindor and a Hufflepuff would never understand. A student in Slytherin might bend a situation to their own will, but a Ravenclaw would analyze and comprehend long before any other wizarding child could. His Hamnet, his Ravenclaw, his everything.
He took a deep breath, collecting his wandering thoughts, before quietly forming the words, “What d-do your parents think?”
The boy looked up at him again, his chin resting against Barty’s chest. “About us? About the letter, you mean?”
Words were not needed, not really, not between them. He knew Hamnet could see the truth in his dark eyes.
A smirk crossed his features, making him even more beautiful to Barty. “They’ve had healers running tests on me, making certain that the projection since such a young age has had no ‘adverse effects’ on me. Oddly enough, I’ve been malnourished most of my life.” Barty could hear the scoffing tone without Hamnet ever having to speak the words. “As if only being fed when I wasn’t being freakish would promote proper nutritional health. I’d been forbidden from—traveling—before now. They wanted everything to be alright, but,” he pulled away and drew out a sealed letter on rich parchment, nearly as expensive as the silk-dust-paper he had used to send his request, “I think this might be worth the wait,” Hamnet said impishly.
Carefully, Barty took it from Hamnet’s outstretched hand and noticed the elegant writing on the front, simply addressed to ‘Monsieur.’ He could feel the Urquhart crest emblazoned on the back, holding the thick, musk-scented parchment together, and he carefully set it aside beneath his pillow, knowing Winky would never dare clean there before he left the room, although now he had his doubts about whether she was snatching his books and other papers that seemed to be misplaced if they weren’t well hidden behind the loose board on the wall.
“Happy?” Hamnet inquired, his childlike face stretching upward expectantly.
Barty answered him with a simple kiss.
Part the Fourth – The Quidditch World Cup
“But Break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue,” Barty read aloud, his voice clear and steady.
A smirk spread over his face as he placed his feet casually onto the table, the aged book held tightly in his hand. The invisibility cloak was somewhere. Most likely in his room. Not that it mattered. He never wore the horrid thing unless he knew his father was about, and then he would go back to his docile behavior, pretending to still be under the Imperius Curse.
He was free, free at last. Now, whenever he felt his father try to reestablish it, he could easily shake it off again, leaving himself in utter clarity.
A laugh erupted from his chest at the sheer joy of his life.
Winky was about somewhere. He glanced at the clock. It was nearly time for luncheon.
He set the book down carefully, his hand caressing the battered cover that the father of his heart had once given him. Soon, he thought. He could feel his father stirring—somewhere else—out there—gone yet coming home.
He glanced at the letter lying on the table. He took it with him everywhere when it wasn’t secreted away. It was simple, straightforward, granting permission to freely and publicly court Hamnet whenever he was free from his “current restraints.” The letter made it clear that Urquhart Sr. suspected that he was a Death Eater, someone who was in hiding, but had due faith that he would release Hamnet from any agreement if he found himself unable to once again enter living in open society.
Barty had assured the Urquharts that Hamnet’s former origins meant nothing to him, except that it was a tragedy against a wizard child who should have been cherished instead of thrown away to Muggles, to rot away in ignorance. He had also revealed his singular friendship with Hamnet over the past years, of his role in naming him and helping him choose a proper family as he was unable to give Hamnet a home given the current political climate.
He had confessed his adoration, his pure love for a child who had brought him back to life after so many years of imprisonment and exile, his complete respect for his person, and his fascination with Hamnet’s unique intelligence that he had never seen surpassed. Finally, Barty had assured the Urquharts that any relationship he and Hamnet were currently engaged in was one that Hamnet had begun and instigated, and that his respect for the House of Urquhart was such that he would never dishonor the young wizard—the adolescent who was on the brink of manhood—with inappropriate advances.
Still, it had to be in secret—at least for now. Hamnet would appear when he had enough time and magical energy. He was still young. In a few years he would easily be able to project at will several times a week, but now at nearly fourteen, he was only able to manage the journey from Scotland once every other month or so.
It was enough. It had to be enough—though now that Barty was free from the curse, he would write out short letters once a week to Hamnet and send them with his mother’s old owl.
His father, of course, never noticed. He was too busy to be bothered.
Winky came in, quiet, serving him a simple lunch. He didn’t deem to notice her. He never really did.
He suspected that Harpy had been back a few times, as although Winky ignored Barty or muttered about he was being “bad” and he should do as his father said, she had begun to try and convince his father that he had been good and be rewarded. The Quidditch World Cup was coming up, after all, and Winky determinedly said that Barty was reformed—he read Muggle books, he was kind, he never tried to escape, he surely missed Quidditch which he always loved and the Cup was in England this year. Somehow Crouch Sr. had been convinced.
Of course, Barty was secretly wondering what exactly his little sprite was planning, but he’d let it go for now. It wouldn’t do to ruin Hamnet’s fun, especially as he was sure it was meant to be somewhat of a surprise.
He slowly began to eat, his mind turned away from the house in Cornwall where he sat and moving steadily up to Scotland, where he knew Hamnet was just finishing up his third year.
Sirius Black, his mind reminded him. He didn’t know that Black had any godchildren, and wondered briefly which blood traitor would have been brainless enough to name him.
Barty had been acquaintances with Regulus when they were at Hogwarts. They were both in the same year, had fallen in with the same crowd, though of course Regulus had mysteriously died before the Dark Lord fell—at least, everyone assumed that he did. His house elf said as much and they were generally reliable, especially fanatical ones like Kreacher had been. Sirius had been loud, brash, slept through most of the Muggle-born witches and a few of the half-bloods, and looked like he was just going to continue onward after he left Hogwarts.
Whoever Hamnet’s blood father was, he must have been mad—then again, he was a traitor to his pureblood upbringing, marrying a Muggle-born who fortunately hadn’t diluted the raw power and keen intelligence Hamnet now held.
Sirius Black, who had the audacity to leave Hamnet with Muggles and then buy him a Firebolt, as if that would make up for over a decade of coexisting and being belittled by such filth!
The thought made him ill, especially as his precious sprite had thought he had sent the gift, and therefore accepted it. Something could have easily gone wrong—the broom might have been cursed or stolen him away somewhere else.
Everything now was signed simply with a “B” so it could never happen again. Hamnet would never be taken advantage of, Barty and the Urquharts would give him everything he needed, not a traitorous godfather who was better off in Azkaban.
His eyes fell once again on his copy of Hamlet, and he smirked at the gift he would soon be sending to his Hamnet. It was simple, a quiet message. He’d sent off his mother’s owl to Flourish and Blotts, not leaving a name but only an account number. His father wouldn’t notice. It was too small—too insignificant. If he did, he’d only have to maneuver around the goblins to get access to his own trust fund, which would have remained stagnant after his supposed death. Black obviously had done the same to send his sprite the damned broomstick.
Once a week, Hamnet would receive a leather bound, hand written copy of one of the bard’s plays. Barty wasn’t able to copy them himself, but the scribes at Flourish and Blotts were willing to pen anything, as long as they had the original.
A quiet message, one no one other than the two of them would ever understand. The first, of course, was Hamlet.
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, absent thee from felicity awhile, and in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, to tell my story.
Their story. So strange. Hamnet like the ghost of Denmark, not drawn from the burning fires of purgatory but from the hallowed heavens where only angel wings would whisper. He hearkened not death, but life, a rebirth, the coming again of feeling, the first and only love that Barty knew would ever steal his breath away in quiet kisses among the fog.
His darling, his everything—although their love suffered in adversity. He was still trapped within this quiet hell that had been built around him, able to think but unable to move without, his face the visage of a dead man, a traitor to the state, a terrorist, when all he had been was a boy who loved the father of his heart and a visionary for a world that was untainted by those who sought to change it in their own perverted image.
Hamnet. Hamnet was his savior. He had come from shadows and brought clarity and love. How had such a sweet child ever come to love him, a man who could not speak and could barely breathe without a dark command to do so?
Hamnet. Hamnet Iacomus Urquhart.
The large clock on the mantle chimed, signaling that someone was approaching, but Barty didn’t hear it, so lost in thought as he was.
The fire roared a sickening green and a woman fell out of it, looking about with a distant look on her face, almost as if she’d misplaced her wand but couldn’t quite remember that she had done so. “Crouch!” she called, not quite seeing Barty, who was staring right at her. “Crouch, I say! I know you’re here, your secretary said you were popping by for lunch!”
Barty stared at her in horror as their eyes met and then forced himself to go slack-jawed, unfocusing his eyes as he thought of Hamnet—Hamnet—only of sweet Hamnet.
“You—You’re,” the witched stuttered, pointing at him as if she’d seen a ghost.
Well, Barty supposed she had, in a way. He just wasn’t as dead as he was supposed to be, more’s the shame.
As soon as he got out of his father’s iron-willed control, it would only be a matter of a few hundred galleons to reestablish himself with a new name, have his impressive NEWT-scores transferred to it, and pretend to be a little known relative to himself. The goblins had no scruples, after all. He was dead and couldn’t very well rise up like some pathetic Muggle savior and live again.
The witch was still staring at him, he noticed from the corner of his eye.
A moment later and the fire once again swirled to life.
“Shh,” a voice murmured as Barty sat within the tent, marveling at just how unimpressive it was. When he had arrived earlier that day, he had seen other tents—one with turrets, another clearly belonging to the Malfoys with tethered peacocks. His father, of course, had to follow the rules completely so though it was magically expanded, it was a simple structure and even the inside was plain and uninspiring.
His mother, Barty knew, never would have stood for it.
Something rustled outside and his brown eyes followed the movement steadily, his hands clasped together beneath the invisibility cloak.
“Not that I don’t appreciate this, Urquhart,” a quiet voice drawled, and the mention of his sprite caused Barty’s heart to instantly leap in his throat, “but this is Mr. Crouch’s tent—“
“—and I called in a few favors with Percy Weasley. He’ll keep his boss busy at the Weasley ‘tents’, if you can call them that,” a soft voice answered, so familiar, so sweet, falling, falling—fallen.
“We can’t just go into a senior member of the ministry’s tent,” the first voice hissed, and a soft laugh quickly followed.
Barty knew that laugh, had known it for years, and he smirked as he imagined his beautiful sprite sneaking about in order to see him.
The tent flap opened and two small forms shimmered in before quickly closing behind them.
Bottle green eyes flickered about the tent before, with a quick movement, Barty found a smiling Hamnet in his arms, the young boy pushing away the invisibility cloak to reveal his face.
“Bartemius,” he breathed happily, his lips moving to form the words, his chest humming with vibrations as he pressed as closely as he could. “We did it! You’re here!”
“You did it,” Barty corrected as his arms swept around his sprite, the invisibility cloak murmuring as it fell away to reveal his hands. “And I see you brought a friend?”
“Ah, yes,” Hamnet said quickly, kissing Barty before turning around to the stunned boy who was standing near the entranceway.
He was about Hamnet’s age, Barty guessed, and dressed in expensive robes. He had a pointed face and hair so pale it could almost be described as white, if the boy were an old man. Malfoy, Barty immediately thought, and he clutched Hamnet to him a little tighter.
“May I present Draco Malfoy, my closest friend. Malfoy, Bartemius Crouch Jr., who according to official records died in 1982.”
Malfoy stared at him openly, his jaw firmly clenched in a way Barty supposed was meant to look regal and distinguished, but instead belied his discomfort and complete shock.
“Does the name Bertha Jorkins mean anything to you?” Hamnet asked sweetly, turning back to Barty, a smirk on his lips and a light in his bright green eyes.
Barty’s eyes widened as he took in the sprite in his arms. Fourteen, just fourteen, he reminded himself. He only had to wait three more years, and he’d already waited three. He smiled at the expectant look on Hamnet’s face.
“Yes, actually. Missing from the Ministry, isn’t she? Department of Magical Sports or something equally as droll.”
“Droll, perhaps, but they did ‘help’ organize this magnificent event,” Hamnet teased, lifting himself up so that their lips were level. He tilted his head to the side, his eyes wide and begging Barty to properly kiss him, to claim him almost in front of his friend.
He understood the quiet message. Hamnet wanted a public claim to be made, for Barty to tell his closest friend without words that he wanted this, wanted Hamnet—as if it could ever be in doubt.
Hamnet was all he thought about. He dreamed of him, planned for him. The future was theirs to grasp as soon as the father of his heart was restored. How proud the Dark Lord would be of this precious imp with his keen intelligence and insightful views he’d have on Muggles and wizarding society in general. He had done the impossible, come from being as ignorant as a disgusting Mudblood to consorting openly with Malfoys and being loved by the heir of one of the premier pureblood families in Wizarding England. This small creature could turn mountains into mole hills without the use of his wand, and make everyone around him wonder why they had ever thought such a small obstacle was so very perilous before.
Barty smirked and, moving his hand up Hamnet’s back until he cupped the back of his throat, he pulled him closer, possessively claiming the soft lips before him that were his. Perfect—smooth—the taste of fizzled Butterbeer on Hamnet’s tongue, reminding him of winter days in Hogsmeade and laughing friends—innocent—so decadent—now now—yes yes yes yes.
He swallowed the sweet moan that escaped Hamnet’s pink lips as he pressed closer, his smaller body wriggling slightly in wanton pleasure, wanting more more more but not yet old enough to quite realize what it was he wanted as Barty’s tongue slice against his own, tasting, tasting, smooth, soft, soft, loving, loved.
Gently, he pulled away, smiling at the dazed green eyes that met his unabashedly, and raked his hand through the soft Black curls that haunted his dreams. “I love you, Hamnet Iacomus Urquhart,” he said steadily, his voice not catching, his eyes free from the glaze of years under the Imperius Curse, the day bright and the air he breathed untainted by foggy whispers.
Hamnet stilled in his arms, his green eyes gazing, searching, searching, found, and a small smile left his thoroughly kissed lips—his only answer.
“And, yes, I am aware of a Bertha Jorkins. I met her briefly a few months ago, though I doubt she remembers it,” he added pointedly, glancing for the first time in several minutes at young Malfoy.
He was standing completely still against the door, his jaw even tighter and his gray eyes wide. Gray eyes—the eyes of the Blacks. Barty’s father had them as well.
The boy in his arms scoffed, his lips parting enticingly at the motion. “That father of yours shouldn’t know how to perform so many of the Dark Arts if he claims to dislike them so much.”
Barty found that he couldn’t disagree.
Hesitantly, Malfoy looked between them before moving away from the door, sitting on one of the chairs that was around a small table. He placed his hands on his lap, folding them, but Barty could see the telltale twitch. The youngest Malfoy was uncertain of the situation and trying to keep his calm, no matter the cost. Perhaps there was a little more of the Black in him then Barty had supposed at first sight.
“The Malfoys have kindly invited me to attend the World Cup with them,” Hamnet began calmly, his hands playing with the ends of Barty’s hair. His expression was calm, composed, all factual intelligence despite the lack of innocence in his pose, his body pressed against Barty’s as his legs straddled Barty’s hips. “Mother and Father have taken Livy briefly to France. She doesn’t much care for crowds and wanted to get away from ‘the madness’ as she calls it.” He paused. “We’ll be sitting in the top box later tonight, and I understand Mr. Crouch has two seats reserved.” He paused. “Oh, to be invisible in the top box, so many unsuspecting people with their wands in their back pockets or robe sleeves.”
Barty heard a stifled gasp and looked over to see the horror written plainly on Malfoy’s face.
“Ingenious, yes. Percy Weasley informed me that Ludo Bagman gave his entire family seats in exchange for a favor. Something to do with his brother and lawn mowers not acting as lawn mowers ought. Corruption will never cease even at the lowest levels of the Ministry,” he commented lightly, pushing himself further against Barty as he placed a gentle kiss on his neck. “Weasley has also told me that, in order to cheer poor little Ginevra up, they’ve invited along that Mudblood, who may or may not be attending Hogwarts next year, depending. I doubt one such as she would truly need her wand, would she?”
Malfoy’s eyes, Barty noticed, glazed over. “Tell me how you weren’t sorted into Slytherin.”
“Well, the hat thought about it,” he admitted, “but I might have been a shade too innocent at the time.”
Barty kissed him deeply. His perfect little Ravenclaw wasn’t quite that innocent anymore.
The wind whistled through his hair as Barty sat in the top box, looking out at the stands that were slowly filling around him. Winky had tried to insist that he sit in the corner, but he would have none of it. He intended to sit beside his beloved Hamnet, breathing in the same air, watching him instead of the game.
He’d never seen Hamnet outside of a small space—his ancestral home, the tent. Now, for the first time he would see the sprite among others, in his element, enjoying something he adored.
Barty would give him all this and more, one day.
Soon, he promised himself. He’d heard whispers of the father of his heart and soon soon soon.
As the hours passed, more and more wizards entered the stadium, laughing, carefree, enjoying themselves, and Barty’s anticipation heightened, waiting, waiting waiting.
At great length a family of redheads, in bedraggled robes and Muggle clothing, filtered into the box, all talking noisily amongst themselves. The Weasleys he supposed. He looked at them a little more closely. The one near the end had brown hair, probably the know-it-all Mudblood.
Her wand was in her back pocket and she sat almost directly in front of him.
“I can’t believe he’s here,” the Mudblood was griping to her little freckled friend.
Barty sneered beneath the invisibility cloak. Blood traitors were almost worse than Mudbloods.
The other girl sighed. The youngest Weasley. Ginevra, Hamnet had said, the one expelled for possessing a dark artifact. The one who’d sent his sprite some sort of Valentine two years before. “Hermione, get over it. He’s always going to have better marks than you. He is a Ravenclaw after all, and they say his mum was clever. Head Girl, in fact. His dad was also Head Boy.”
“Not that Urquhart, as he now calls himself, would ever admit to being related to them,” she continued cruelly.
“He doesn’t remember them,” Ginevra defended quietly. “He—doesn’t he have a new family now?”
Hermione nodded, her bushy hair bouncing about her.
Barty eyed the wand in her pocket. He’d take it during the game, when she was more thoroughly distracted.
“Slytherins, the lot of them. Did you know—I heard Lavinia Urquhart talking to someone and someone’s actually already courting him. She never said who, and I would never even want to speak to him, but they’ve practically sold him into marriage. His mother was a Muggle-born. She would be ashamed.”
Ginevra shifted uneasily in front of him, her long flowing hair catching the light. It was similar to Hamnet’s, the bright flame, but Hamnet’s hair shone a deeper red, the color of molten flame, the shade of blood, the timbre of his heart. “He’s—Harry’s engaged?”
Barty swallowed. What a terribly plebian name. His sprite had been right all those years ago. Barty had only thought that Potter’s mother had been so unsavory as to name her child that. Harry. He tried to fit it in his mind to the image of his beautiful little Hamnet, high cheekbones, bright eyes, flaming hair of darkness, and he couldn’t see it. Hamnet was too magnificent for anything less than an old name. In truth he should have been given a strong Latin name, but he had chosen the affection nickname for himself. It suited. Ancient yet thoroughly English. The Latin came with his second name—Iacomus. He’d assumed it had been his blood father’s name, or some variant of it.
“Practically,” Hermione continued, not noticing that more people were entering the box. “It’s quite disgusting, as I said. You should just give up now, Ginny, I don’t think anything will come of it. He’s too close to the Malfoys, as it is.”
“Ah, Minister,” a new voice drawled, pulling everyone’s attention to the aristocratic wizard and his family. “I don’t believe you know my wife and son, Narcissa and Draco, and of course our guest, young Hamnet Urquhart, recently of the House of Urquhart.”
“Oh, my, of course!” Fudge squeaked clearly excited. “A pleasure. Mrs. Malfoy,” he grasped her hand and brought it to his lips, not kissing it as was customary in high society before releasing it once again. “Master Draco and young Harry—Hamnet, pardon. I have of course heard so much about you.” His eyes gleamed predatorily.
Barty glared quietly at him, putting to memory his every transgression for later when he could further protect Hamnet’s honor.
The Malfoys took their seats and Hamnet quietly sat next to him, his thigh pressing against his own in a silent greeting that only the two of them were aware of.
“You caused quite a stir in the Ministry last summer,” Fudge continued. “Dumbledore was beside himself. Usually cases of adoption come up before the Head of the Wizengamot, but yours was so quietly arranged that none of us had any idea until the formal announcement last August.”
“Yes, it was kept quite quiet,” Malfoy answered, taking Fudge’s attention away from Hamnet. “My wife and I of course were aware and helped Hamnet find suitable parents—“
A small hand slipped behind him casually, tracing the line of his spine as Hamnet looked straight ahead.
“Harry,” Ginevra breathed and Hamnet focused his attention on her.
“It’s Hamnet Urquhart, actually,” he coldly corrected, his eyes skimming distastefully over the two witches. “I was adopted last year.”
Ginevra blushed deeply, ducking her head.
Hamnet turned away from her and began fiddling with the Omnioculars in his free hand.
Barty could see the tense line of his jaw, and realized that Hamnet was disquieted about something, perhaps the use of his old name. Gently, Barty pressed his thigh against Hamnet’s again, wishing he could fully take him into his arms, kiss a trail down the smooth line of his neck, but not yet, never yet, waiting waiting still.
A small smile began to twitch at the sides of Hamnet’s mouth.
Mrs. Malfoy, sensing the quiet of her two charges, turned toward them and smiled gently at them. “I understand from your mother, Hamnet, that you are being courted by a wizard of family and standing.”
Draco Malfoy paled at the topic of conversation.
“Amata, though, wouldn’t tell me who it was.”
Hamnet smiled gently, turning from Barty but leaning against his shoulder. “Yes. It hasn’t been announced yet as I’m only fourteen. In a few years, I hope, but until then …”
“Of course,” she supplied, her expression open, asking for more details.
“He’s wonderful,” Hamnet supplied. “Perfect, intelligent, handsome. I chose him years ago but it wasn’t until I was adopted and had proper guardians that he could ask for anything more formal. Mother and Father were a little reluctant at first as I’m so young and I’d only been their son for a few months, but I managed to convince them otherwise.”
“Years ago?” Draco echoed, confusion lighting up his gray eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Hamnet pressed a hand to his shoulder. “To be honest, I didn’t think anyone would believe me if I did. It started out when I began to test the theory of Astral Projection. Of course, Harpy found out and urged me to tell Mother and Father. My parents couldn’t really continue to delay a decision about the courtship when they found out I’d been visiting him since I first went to Hogwarts and that I kept choosing to go back.”
Mrs. Malfoy nodded her head regally. “I was quite the same. I was about twelve years old when I decided I wanted to marry Lucius. Of course, he was a seventh year at the time and it took him a few years to agree with me, but it’s a common Black trait. We tend to decide who we want from a very early age. Then again, your blood grandmother was a Black herself, so it’s hardly surprising. Draco, though, seems not to have inherited the trait so far,” she teased her son lightly, who straightened a little more in his seat. “Then again, he takes after his father, after all.”
Hamnet arched his neck in agreement and carefully Barty dropped a small kiss on it, being careful that his cloak was not removed.
“I suppose I am a little like the Blacks then,” he agreed as he stifled a gasp.
Barty, naturally, was quite pleased with himself.
“He treats you properly?” Mrs. Malfoy asked quietly, her large grey eyes wide in concern. “I have the highest regard for your Mother and Father, Hamnet, but you are dear to me as well. You are happy and safe?”
He nodded. “Very happy and far too safe.” He laughed, perhaps remembering how Barty refused to touch him until he was older.
“Good. He’s following the proper courtship rituals then. What has he gifted you?”
Barty heard a rustle of cloth and glanced over to the Mudblood and Weasley, who were both avidly following the conversation. He withheld a sigh. It would soon be common knowledge, though, after all. He just wished he wouldn’t have to be in their unsavory presence.
“My name,” Hamnet answered, clearly surprising everyone. “He first gifted me my name.”
“Hamnet?” Hermione cut in. “He gave you the name Hamnet? Why?”
He snarled at her, causing the Mudblood to flinch away from him. Barty smirked into the back of Hamnet’s neck, taking in his sweet scent and breathing against the black mess of half-curls. He desperately wanted to pull Hamnet into his lap, to snake an arm around the lithe waist, to feel their heartbeats synchronize. It was torture, being unable to claim this beautiful sprite, his own, his Hamnet, his everything.
Now now, soon soon soon.
“And then?” Mrs. Malfoy prompted.
“My family. He came up with the original list and helped me edit each subsequent one. I never would have permitted the Urquharts to adopt me if he hadn’t agreed to them.”
“This, however, was before the official courtship.”
“Yes,” Hamnet agreed, “but they were gifts nonetheless.” He paused, turning his head slightly so that his wild red-black hair fell away from his neck, leaving it open to Barty. He sighed in contentment as Barty nuzzled him affectionately. “When I first met him, I quoted the Muggle play, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,” he admitted. “It was my favorite book growing up—it’s where my name comes from. William Shakespeare named his son Hamnet, which is a variant of Hamlet, of course.” He glanced at the Mudblood, a knowing glint in his bottle green eyes, his hair falling against Barty’s face. “He’s begun to send me beautiful hand-penned and illustrated copies of Shakespeare’s works, starting with Hamlet. All the ones that involve magic of some kind.”
“A thoughtful and expensive gift then,” Mrs. Malfoy whispered quietly, just as the commentary for the match began.
As soon as the Veelas came onto the pitch, Barty found a wand pressed into his hand and a kiss placed delicately on his lips, everyone around them staring avidly at the display beneath them.
Screams erupted around the tent and, despite his father’s express order to remain in the tent tinted with a dark curse that no longer held sway, Barty ran from the tent under the invisibility cloak, Winky tripping behind him, begging him to return.
He didn’t hear her squeals, her pleas to return as her master had wanted. All he could think of was Hamnet as he caught sight of masked figures, wands held into the air as Muggles floated above them and tents were destroyed with burning flames.
Death Eaters, the fools. He thought he made out the frame of Lucius Malfoy. Malfoy who was putting not only his son, but his beloved Hamnet in danger. He glanced about wildly, the wand pressed within his hand, until he saw children running toward the woods.
Malfoy would have sent them there before this occurred, Barty realized to himself as he quickly ran toward it, pressing against bodies, pushing, forward forward. It didn’t matter that Winky was now weeping, tripping as she tried to stop them, their forms tied together with her infernal elf magic that sickened him. He could care less if she actually died somehow in the exchange, was trampled upon by frightened wizards.
His mind instead called out to Hamnet, his eyes searching the children around them. A flash of red, perhaps one of the many Weasleys. Dark eyes, skin too pale, the murmur of French.
He’d spoken the language fluently once, could understand it. It didn’t matter.
Barty broke through the trees, glancing about him wildly, the gentle sobs of Winky not quite breaking his concentration, but almost. There he was, near the tree line, wrapped up in a crimson cloak, his pajama bottoms peaking out from them.
“Watch out, Mudblood, you’ll be next,” the youngest Malfoy drawled and Barty took a greater look at his surroundings. The Mudblood Hermione was there with a boy who had flaming red hair. Probably another Weasley. He wondered briefly where Ginevra might have gone, but then didn’t really think about it any longer.
The Death Eaters could take her, for all that he cared.
It sickened him. They were free, never imprisoned, they lied and now they were creating chaos simply for their own perverse amusement when the father of his heart was bodiless, probably little more than a wandering spirit, waiting, waiting to be found and returned to his former glory.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Malfoy continued, perhaps answering some question that Barty had missed. “They’re targeting Muggles. Who do you think will be next?”
Hamnet stood to the side, watching everything with sharp eyes, his mouth frowning downward slightly in worry.
“Quiet,” he hissed to the small elf who was continuing her sobs. They were far enough away so that the group of students hadn’t noticed them yet, but he didn’t want to bring any more attention to them than needed.
A few more exchanged words and finally the Mudblood and Weasley were gone, glancing back over their shoulders as the camp burned in the dark night.
“I’m not certain this was wise,” Hamnet said quietly into the night, looking out at the Death Eaters. “Surely this is not what he would want?” He glanced over at Malfoy, a question in his eyes.
Malfoy shrugged. “There are rumors, hints of rumors, that he might be returning soon. They’re paving the way, I think.” He sounded slightly uncertain, but Hamnet accepted his answer with a nod.
A whisper in the air, and Barty was pressed against Hamnet’s back, intertwining their fingers and delighting in the gasp that escaped from his throat.
“Bartemius?” he whispered as he turned around, his eyes gazing searchingly for the known form of one invisible to him.
Barty leaned in and kissed him gently, humming in the back of his throat as he had before he had regained his voice. “For break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue,” he whispered against gasping lips, nipping softly, pulling, a tongue slipping into his mouth as he was kissed gently—so lovely—so wonderful, and he swept Hamnet into his waiting arms.
“Master Barty!” Winky wailed behind him, perhaps at the odd scene of Hamnet being thoroughly and wantonly kissed by no one.
They both ignored him and forgot that Draco Malfoy was staring at them in confusion and surprise.
“I love you,” Hamnet whispered as he arched against him. “This is the very ecstasy of love.”
“Hamlet.” Barty grinned against his lips.
“Yes, Hamlet. I want to see you,” he whispered desperately, stretching up, pushing forward, the cries of the crowd fading away into nothingness as Barty stared into beautiful bottle green eyes.
“You can’t. Not yet. I’m not completely free and I’m still imprisoned.”
Hamnet nodded with tears in his eyes, his hand skating upward as he felt the seam of Barty’s lips beneath his fingers, the line of the nose, lingered where he should be able to see the freckles he adored so much.
Barty, sighing, pressed their foreheads together and ran his hand lovingly through Hamnet’s hair.
“Potter! Is that you?” someone called in the darkness, a cruel tinge to his voice, and Barty felt Hamnet tense in his arms, green eyes opened wide, searching searching for a reaction that he would never be able to see.
“No,” the person, whoever they were, mumbled. “Must have been someone else with Malfoy.”
Potter. Harry Potter. The beautiful boy he was holding had once been Harry Potter—but no more.
He did not fully understand, his father would—the father of his heart would hate—
A smirk played on his lips and he kissed the soft wanting lips gently. The minx had turned everything on its head, becoming gray, too intelligent, escaping from the Muggle fools like Fudge and Dumbledore probably wanted him to protect. The sprite had tried to give the father of his heart back his body for Barty, for Barty—and Barty would give him the entire world in return.
“It doesn’t matter,” Barty assured him as they pressed more closely together. “This above all—to thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.”
“Love you, love you,” Hamnet murmured, never Harry Potter, never that. He was but an image of falseness, a mask forced upon this beautiful child who now reached into Barty’s robes and withdrew the wand from where it was carefully hidden. A flash in his eyes and he smiled. “Morsmordre!” he whispered and then, tossing the wand into the bushes, he mouthed a single word, ‘Run!’
And run they did.