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Red Hen Publications — Commentary Collection: Hostage to Misfortune
The Potterverse Essays

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I contend that much of the background tension of PS/SS is built upon the fact that Dumbledore and the staff were attempting to deal with a hostage situation — in addition to trying to trap Voldemort.

There is nothing remotely like a Hostage situation in OotP. Unless you want to count Sirius Black’s raging case of cabin fever. Which I don’t.

But Rowling had already reused that particular “situation”. Prominently. In GoF.

In fact we got almost an exact reversal of PS/SS’s hostage situation in GoF. And we certainly got a reversal of its conclusion. In PS/SS they lost the hostage, but managed to keep Voldemort from returning. In GoF it went in exactly the opposite direction. Tom returned, but they did manage to rescue Alastor Moody.

And I gradually came around to the idea that there is a strong possibility — even if not a certainty — that Albus and Snape knew that they needed to do that, too. Rowling is probably never going to either confirm nor deny this reading. But going by what is actually in the books, it still plays.

After HBP, once I finally got off the fence concerning the loyalties of former Professor Snape, his role, and even more particularly, his actions, those actions over the course of GoF stood in need of some re-evaluation.

Because, once I was convinced that, yes, he was indeed a White Hat, some of those actions at first glance — or even second glance — now look a bit dicey.

Of course Rowling meant them to. She wanted to keep us guessing.

But even from my position of having finally taken a stand on Snape’s loyalties, I was still half convinced that the summoning of that Dementor may have been largely Snape’s doing.

• • • •

Of course, I also came out of my first reading of GoF with the conviction that Fudge was, if not a Death Eater, at least a willing and knowing supporter of Voldemort and his aims. I still suspect that Fudge found Malfoy’s openly stated claims as to the proper hierarchies which should be maintained within the wizarding world attractive. Particularly if he personally was assured a place among the ruling class.

But by the time OotP’s release was imminent, I wasn’t so sure of Fudge’s being “ever-so-evil” any more, and by the time I finished reading OotP I no longer believed that Fudge was himself numbered among, or had ever knowingly supported, Voldemort or the Death Eaters. And it is clear by the end of the first chapter of HBP that this was indeed the case.

The biggest reason to have even considered the possibility in the first place was the summoning of that Dementor.

And from what we now know of Fudge, it seemed a lot clearer to me that the presence of that Dementor was far more likely to be due to Fudge having been “played” by someone. It was surprisingly easy to “play” Cornelius Fudge. He is a very predictable little man. And the only person known to have been in a position to have played Fudge at the relevant time, in the proper manner to send him calling for a Dementor, appeared to be Severus Snape.

And if Snape was indeed the person responsible, there is something quite alarmingly efficient about how Snape managed to spread the damage across both of his principals’ organizations by neutralizing Barty Crouch Jr at just that point in time, in just that particular manner. Dumbledore lost essential testimony of Voldemort’s return and, incidentally, another opportunity to clear Sirius Black’s name that night, given that Peter Pettigrew had been very much in evidence in that account. After the fact, Albus turned out to have lost a not insignificant part of his personal credibility as well. Voldemort, on the other hand, lost his “most loyal servant”.

And what Snape gained by it was his entry back into Voldemort’s good graces.

Voldemort really was not stupid. Or, at least he wasn’t at that point in the series. Even though he devolved into a total idiot later. But by neutralizing Crouch before he could be officially questioned, the news of Voldemort’s return was confined to Harry’s testimony and Dumbledore’s support of it. And Malfoy, on his own behalf, had already taken steps to undermine public confidence in both of those.

From the other end of the equation, once the Potter boy managed to make his escape, all of Voldemort’s plans had become completely derailed; throwing him into a situation for which he was not prepared.

And then, on top of it, his agent at Hogwarts managed to give himself away.

Snape’s quick intervention bought him time.

Indeed, by all rights, Lord Voldemort ought to have been feeling very obliged to Severus Snape.

And by all accounts, since that evening, I think he was. Snape’s subsequent position within the organization is evidence enough of that. I rather think that Snape had been a very minor cog in the DE’s wheel the first time around — at least in Tom Riddle’s estimation. And I thought that much of his enhanced status during VoldWar II might stem from the neutralizing of Barty Crouch.

• • • •

It was Snape, after all, that Dumbledore sent to tell Fudge that there was a captured Death Eater to be taken into custody.

Which is exactly what he did.

And if Fudge then shows up to do it with a Dementor in tow, rather than a team of Aurors, it is most likely to have been due to something that Snape told him, isn’t it?

And it is not all that difficult to guess exactly what.

Consider; This was supposed to be an arrest, not an execution.

Crouch Sr is no longer the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and Amelia Bones has a very good track record for fairness. The wizarding world also hasn’t been at war for over a decade. Even a suspected Death Eater ought to be entitled to a proper trial.

An Azkaban escapee, however, is not.

From the precedent set in Book 3, apparently the only thing an Azkaban escapee is entitled to is the Dementor’s Kiss. All Snape had to do was murmur — with absolute truthfulness — “escaped from Azkaban” to Fudge and the presence of a Dementor was assured. Fudge, after all, only knows of one Azkaban escapee.

Even if Albus had broached the subject of Black’s possible innocence to Fudge before the current school year commenced, which still seems unlikely, Fudge had probably leaped to the conclusion that they had managed to recapture Sirius Black.

Upon the whole, and taking later events into consideration, I think that it was Lord Voldemort who came out very much ahead in that particular trade-off. Which is not a comforting thought.

On the other hand, Albus’s own agent managed to settle into place in the middle of Tom’s organization by the end of the evening, and there appears to be no suggestion in canon that Tom regarded Snape, or his loyalties, afterward, with any real degree of suspicion whatsoever.

But Tom was not really vulnerable enough for the Ministry to have been able to take him down at that point even if they’d had Crouch’s testimony. As I’ve said elsewhere, I really did believe that at that point in time, that Snape would have known about the Horcruxes. Rowling, however determinedly implies that he did not.

(Although Albus may well have intended for him to figure it out during that final year. The books regarding them had been left right where Snape, as Albus’s successor could not fail to have found them. Albus didn’t anticipate that Hermione would summon them through the open window and make off with them before Snape took possession of that office.)

• • • •

For that matter; I am also not altogether convinced that Dumbledore and Snape were not already suspicious of “Moody” well before the night of the 3rd task.

Much of this possibility hinges upon how much information an active Auror like Moody might have had regarding the Dark Mark back during VoldWar I. Fudge — who came out of the Dept. of Magical Catastrophes, not Law Enforcement — knew nothing of how Voldemort had “marked” his followers, but the war had been over for nearly a decade before Fudge took office and he may simply never have been on a “need to know” list. Back in the war years, such information is likely to have been highly classified, if it was known outside the DMLE at all.

And yet, “Moody” had openly taunted Snape about his Dark Mark all the way back in January during the Christmas break. On the very same night that he had just raided Snape’s stores of boomslang skin. That could have been a piece of carelessness which would have alerted both Snape and Dumbledore to the imposture.

Now that we know rather more about the mental acuteness of Severus Snape (even though Rowling does seem to have been determined to undermine it with a heavy application of terminal cluelessness in DHs — no one’s mental facilities appear to have survived contact with DHs, apart from Neville, Luna and in some patchy instances, Hermione), can we really assume that having just come from his office, and the fresh discovery that someone has raided his store of boomslang skin, and then immediately afterwards to run slap into Alastor Moody (whose hip flask was legendary), with whom he then got into a pissing contest over Moody having searched his office earlier in the term, ending in his being taunted about his Dark mark, he might not have connected the dots? Up until DHs, Snape was very good at connecting dots.

What is more, Harry was not positioned where he could actually see both of their faces during that little contest when Snape and Moody attempted to stare each other down, after which Snape abruptly broke contact and stated that he was going back to bed.

Given the depth of the Dementors’ effect upon young Crouch during his stint in Azkaban, I very much doubt that Crouch was a highly proficient Occlumens. He wouldn’t have learned that skill hiding under an invisibility cloak in his father’s house under Imperius, either.

Might Snape have taken the risk of briefly attempting to “read” Moody?

If so, the attempt was very brief, and probably wouldn’t have revealed who this fellow was, but it might have shown him the theft of the boomslang skin, which the impostor had just accomplished, and was probably carrying concealed on his person, at that very moment.

Once the possibility of Polyjuice was in the equation, they might not know who the impostor was, but they would have known he was NOT Moody.

Instead, they knew that he had captured Moody.

• • • •

Dumbledore and Snape already knew that Voldemort had managed to insert an agent to mess with the tournament. That was obvious from the minute Harry’s name came out of the Goblet. It also tipped them off to the fact that Voldemort was running some kind of a scam of his own under cover of the event.

And, really, when you stop to consider it, their list of possible suspects was remarkably short.

This is Voldemort we are talking about. Assumed to be being assisted by Pettigrew. Both of whom have been out of touch for the past 14 years. Can anyone really imagine that anybody other Harry and his friends might assume that their enemy agent was one of the foreign students?

Don’t be ridiculous. Harry and his friends might have believed that, but I doubt that Snape or Albus would have.

How were Tom and Peter supposed to have even been able to guess which foreign students were going to be selected as candidates to compete? For that matter, the Hogwarts students weren’t any more viable as suspects, or at least not as suspects for serving as Tom’s agent. Nor any of the established Hogwarts teachers, either.

There were never really more than three people on that suspect list. Igor Karkaroff, whose past associations were already a matter of public record; Madame Maxime who is obviously half Giant. Giants had supported Voldemort last time round — although I would guess that Madam M was only included on the suspect list as an outside possibility, for the sake of “completeness”. And, now, Professor Moody. And with the suggestion of polyjuice in the equation, Moody has just jumped to the head of the list. Who on earth would think that impersonating Karkaroff was a good idea? He was already a suspicious character without adding the complication of Polyjuice to the equation. And Post-DHs we are informed that Polyjuice doesn’t work on half-Giants. Which raises the probability that you cannot Polyjuice yourself into one, either.

There were initially a couple of other outsiders like Barty Crouch Sr and Ludo Bagman who were on the list as well, back when the issue of Harry’s name in the Goblet was first raised, since they had both been at the school during the period that the Goblet had been taking names. But they weren’t on site full time, and while you couldn’t completely dismiss the possibility that someone from the Ministry might be involved, they were both essentially also-rans. Even Rita and her photographer didn’t show up until after Harry’s name had already come out of the Goblet.

We’ve got a couple of other variables in the equation as well. Crouch Jr had also been out of touch for over a decade, and we don’t know what the relationship was between Snape and the real Moody by the opening of Year 4. It has been hinted that Albus kept Snape’s function as a spy quite separate from the actions of the Order. It was also strongly implied that at the end of the war Moody had not been convinced of Snape’s loyalties, not having ever been in a position to have seen them demonstrated. But by this time, who can say?

“Moody” may have given himself away in other small details already.

The real Moody was openly skeptical when Dumbledore vouched for Snape in the Pensieve memory of Karkaroff’s plea bargain hearing. But that took place more than a dozen years earlier, and the story that Dumbledore and Snape have always given out was that Snape had turned himself in to Dumbledore in remorse, and turned his cloak as well, when he had been hired on as a teacher. At that point, that had been only a matter of some 7–8 weeks earlier. I’d have been skeptical, too. Moody didn’t know at that point that Snape had probably been working for Albus for at least several months before that.

But that memory was from quite a while ago. Snape has been reporting on Malfoy and his associates on Dumbledore’s behalf ever since, and the real Moody may know this. And Snape’s information no doubt had proved extremely useful in the mopping up period after Godric’s Hollow. Tom wouldn’t have known whether Snape and Alastor Moody were interacting by Harry’s 4th year. And, more to the point, neither did Crouch Jr, unless he thought to question his prisoner about it. Which, unfortunately, he probably did. But he was still improvising.

And for all that Barty Jr had no doubt known the old Auror very well, through his father, once upon a time, and for all that he still had the real Moody available for questioning, he may still conceivably have overplayed his role. Taunting Snape about the Dark Mark could have been a mistake that set Snape on his guard. In fact we saw Snape immediately retreat behind the usual, blank, Occlumency mask that he wears in the presence of fellow DEs as soon as “Moody” brought the subject of the Dark mark up.

Or at any rate he wore that mask until he caught sight of the Marauders’ Map and went off on another of his “This all has to do with Potter!” rants. Misdirection, perhaps? Could be. It worked, too.

It certainly misdirected Harry.

To the point of entrusting False!Moody with the Marauders’ Map.

• • • •

Snape wore that same mask through much of the Spinners’ End chapter of HBP as well, and it was evidently familiar enough that neither of his guests appear to have been made suspicious by it. He did not typically wear that mask at Grimmauld Place. That really ought to give us some hint of who he considers to be “safe” to reveal his own feelings around.

For another thing, we don’t know how many different potions might require boomslang skin. If it’s a necessary component of half a dozen fairly commonly used ones, then the conclusion to draw from a raid on it is not as obvious to the characters as it would be to the readers. But the fact that it is not in the students’ supply cupboard argues against it being broadly useful in a wide variety of potions.

One also has to ask whether Snape informed Dumbledore of the raid(s) on his supply of boomslang skin. But once I got off the fence and declared him to be a White Hat, I have to conclude that he probably did.

And for that matter, Snape may have decided to “use” his Dark mark to signal to a possible DE colleague by rubbing his left arm, as he was observed to have been doing in the Egg and the Eye conversation with Moody, possibly to see whether Moody would respond to his gambit.

Which he did, by taunting Snape about “spots that don’t come off”.

The likely presence of polyjuice in the equation combined with the visible presence of Moody’s hip flask and the taunt about the Dark Mark would have offered a difficult conclusion for Dumbledore not to draw. Did Albus manage to miss it?

I doubt it.

• • • •

What is more, I suspect that before the night of the 3rd task their list of suspects had already been narrowed down to one, and that Albus had a very good idea of just who the impostor might actually be. He did, after all, send Minerva to fetch Winky, well before Crouch’s Polyjuice had worn off.

For that matter, I think we were all given a solid clue as to the direction of Albus’s suspicions when Harry fell into the Pensieve. Even if it was the kind of clue that is only interpretable in retrospect.

We saw there three courtroom dramas. Karkaroff’s plea bargain hearing, Ludo Bagman’s trial, and the trial of the Lestranges and Barty Crouch Jr.

It’s easy enough to understand why Albus might be reviewing his recollection of Karkaroff’s plea bargain. And it might make sense to take another look at Bagman’s trial as well, so long as he’s at it, since they have been dealing with Bagman over the course of the year as well. Plus, I rather think that the point of those exercises may have been that Albus had been sitting near the real Alastor Moody at both of those proceedings, so he could take stock of his recollection of Moody’s responses during those proceedings, in addition.

But under normal circumstances, why would he have wanted to review the Crouch/Lestrange trial as well? Crouch’s son was believed dead. The Lestranges were still safely in Azkaban. Alastor Moody was nowhere to be seen during the Crouch/Lestrange trial, so Albus wasn’t watching it to refresh his recollection of Moody’s comments regarding it.

Well, also at that point in the story, Crouch himself had allegedly just been seen on the school grounds. Acting very strangely, too, babbling about his brilliant son, and then had mysteriously disappeared. But recollections of his son’s trial more than a decade earlier, could have had little relevance about the whereabouts of Barty Crouch Sr now could they?

So why was Albus Dumbledore reviewing the trial of a presumably dead man?

Had Dumbledore already figured the whole puzzle out before “Moody” made his final move? (Which might explain why he oh-so-briefly left Harry alone with Moody, as bait, after the return from the graveyard, and why he and his deputies went straight to Moody’s office after Harry disappeared the second time.) Dumbledore, did, at that point in the series, appear to have a thing for catching his enemies in the act, or you would think that they might have simply cornered “Moody” at any point during the year and confiscated his hip flask until the Polyjuice wore off.

On this head, I think that their problem may have been that once they concluded that polyjuice was in the equation, they knew they had another hostage situation on their hands. They knew that the real Alastor Moody was likely to be imprisoned somewhere in the castle. And they did not want to risk losing another hostage the way they lost Quirrell.

Of course they also couldn’t be altogether certain that whoever “Moody” was, that he was working alone. They may have had expectations of an on-site conspiracy to juggle, and wanted to be able to identify the impostor’s accomplice(s) as well.

As in the case of Quirrell, however, they could be reasonably certain that the DE, whoever he was, would try very hard to keep Moody alive. But I’ll have to say that Albus certainly made a piss-poor job of any effort to rescue him, if that’s the case. Confiscating the hip flask for an hour or two would have made a lot more sense.

[Side note: I am inclined to believe that a good deal of the reason that Crouch and Pettigrew were able to subdue Moody so readily was the shock effect of Moody’s finding himself under attack by two “dead” men. Ghosts cannot perform spells. They may well have managed to get closer to him on that account than two strangers might. Moody had known Pettigrew reasonably well back in the days of the Order, and he certainly would have known his former boss’s son.]

• • • •

And for that matter, now that we come right down to the nub of it; does it strike anybody else that the whole “Confession of Barty Crouch Jr” is a thoroughly unconvincing piece of work? Upon consideration there seems to be an awfully lot less to that confession than meets the eye.

In fact that whole sequence, once closely examined, collapses like an underdone soufflé when you slam the oven door. Try analyzing it and you end up suspecting everybody. Of terminal incompetence at the very least. Albus most of all.

Although by this point I am mostly inclined to suspect Rowling herself of a stretch of sloppy plotting than any of her characters of anything halfway coherent. GoF was the point that the series began running off the rails, and in retrospect it shows. Relevant pieces were certainly all there, she could have put them together a into a coherent narrative. But she simply didn’t. I suspect a major case of burnout. One that was with us to the end of the series.

We probably also need to remind ourselves that part of this difficulty may have come about as a result of the alleged patch job that she found herself having to do 2/3 through the writing of the story, but if so we don’t know what part. (I have heard it rumored that Impostor!Moody was a late addition to the plot and not a part of the original outline. I’m not sure that I believe it.) But the whole “confession” seems to have been a piece of misdirected answering, that does not even account for what we saw happening over the course of the book.

In the first place; can anyone tell me what Dumbledore got out of that confession that he could actually use for anything? He already knew that Voldemort was back. He already knew that Pettigrew was alive. And what good does it do anyone to have the details of how the late Barty Crouch Sr sprung his wayward and unrepentant son from Azkaban? Albus couldn’t even use that information to clear Sirius Black.

The only thing Dumbledore got from the exercise was a confirmation of his suspicion that the missing Bertha Jorkins was toast, and to find out what Barty had done with his father’s body. Sure, on first reading, it was all very satisfying to know just how it happened — assuming that any of it was true, which I don’t — but what good is any of that going to do for us against Voldemort’s future plans — of which we learned absolutely nothing? At the end of that session I really don’t find myself with a lot of respect for Dumbledore’s skill or technique in interrogation.

For that matter, there are also a lot of very peculiar omissions from that confession. Particularly when one considers that the subject of it was allegedly drugged to the eyes with truth serum. Can we be all that sure that we really do know “how it all happened”?

• • • •

And, do you know; back in the days that I was still sitting on the fence over the question of Snape’s loyalties, I just wasn’t at all astonished to learn in passing toward the end of OotP that Professor Snape keeps false Veritiserum in his stores as well as the real stuff.

I also remembered that before Dumbledore sent Snape off to find Fudge, Dumbledore had sent Snape to fetch the Veritiserum — which Snape did, with all haste — once he managed to tear himself away from the sight of his own face in Crouch’s foe glass. (Is that why he arranged for a Dementor? Just in case Crouch had recognized his face in the foe glass — as an enemy — and reported it to Voldemort? Snape had a lot to lose if his cover was blown, and the foe glass was evidence of a sort that might be hard to explain away.) But I can’t hang any convincing theorizing on that particular hook from the vantage point of the end of HBP. Nor post-DHs.

Still, either Barty Crouch was even cleverer and more in control of his responses under Veritiserum than we have credited him with being, or there must have been something wrong with that particular batch of the stuff. Because his claims of how it all came about just don’t add up with what we watched take place over the course of the book.

Or else Barty Jr was completely off in his own separate reality, and, however sincere, we can’t rely on anything he had to say for himself being supported by the facts.

Delusion may be a perfectly viable way to bypass the effects of Veritiserum, after all.

• • • •

I mean, really. When you look back after finishing Book 4, doesn’t it strike you as just a bit overly fortuitous that Crouch Jr had somehow managed to slip his leash and send up the Dark Mark over the World Cup campgrounds, forcing his father to publicly dismiss his House Elf, in order to save face, right at that particular moment?

It’s almost like he knew someone was waiting in the wings for her to be gone...

Like, at the very least, he’d been given an inspirational pep talk quite recently. And doesn’t it strike you that his father’s long-established Imperius which had “quite suddenly” weakened, had weakened just a little too suddenly?

Doesn’t the timing for everything to do with the whole adventure at World Cup and Barty Jr’s rescue from his father’s house sound just a little bit too convenient to you?

Isn’t it an awfully big coincidence that Barty Jr should have managed to fight his way clear of the effects of the curse right at the point when he just happened to see a kid’s wand that he could steal?

Or that he and Winky should just happen to both be stunned so she couldn’t get him away from the site after he sent up the Dark Mark — and that she should just happen to be found with the suspect wand in her hand, causing her master a public embarrassment resulting in her dismissal?

And yet Barty says nothing of how Winky came to be found holding the stolen wand. She certainly hadn’t stolen it.

And on the other end of the equation, does it really seem likely that Voldemort and Wormtail should have placed such absolute confidence in Providence as to leave the whole matter up to chance that it would all just naturally work out to their convenience without any action on their part?

Just how many coincidences are we supposed to swallow here?

Crouch Jr’s version of these events — given while “under Veritiserum” — omits any suggestion of there being any influence from outside the Crouch household in the equation until the night that Voldemort showed up in the arms of his servant Wormtail, put Crouch Sr under Imperius and rescued young Barty. But the actual timing of all these events immediately starts looking highly suspicious under any kind of an examination.

I’ll ask you again; is it likely that for such a vital part of their overall plan as springing Barty Crouch from durance vile under his father’s domination — which they must have realized couldn’t be accomplished until the Elf was out of the way — that anything would be left to chance? We’re talking about Lord Voldemort here. You know, the guy with the weakness for absolutely Byzantine plots.

And this plot, moreover, is one that requires hair-trigger timing.

Crouch states that he and Wormtail had prepared the polyjuice Potion which was used for his imposture of the real Alastor Moody in advance. This is faulty timing. By the point of Harry’s dream/vision of Frank Bryce’s murder at the opening of the book we are told that there was only a fortnight left before he was due to return to school, and that was shortly before the World Cup and its aftermath.

Being swept off to take part in the World Cup adventure covers the next three days, and then we are blithely led to understand that the uproar at the Ministry that followed covered not much more than a week.

In his “dream” of Frank Bryce’s murder, Voldemort and Wormtail were newly returned to England. Voldemort also stated that they would be staying in the Riddle House for perhaps a week. He said that their next move would take place after the Quidditch World Cup was over. (In fact, immediately after it was over.) But we don’t know that they actually held to that schedule.

But, polyjuice — as we know from CoS — needs to brew for close to three weeks before it is ready for the final ingredient. Moody was attacked and captured the evening of August 31; the night before the Trio boarded the Hogwarts Express, which was the very last chance that Tom and Co had in which to do it. That batch of Polyjuice had to have been have been started no later than about August 10. So right there Rowling has lost track of the calendar and we are left with a knot in the timeline.

Admittedly, Polyjuice has a fairly long shelf life. Moody’s supply that Hermione appropriated after Moody’s death at the end of July in ’97 lasted the trio until after Easter. Peter could have easily purchased some in Albania — where he would be less likely to have been recognized — and they brought it with them when they returned to Britain. But that isn’t what Barty tells us.

In any case, it sounds very much as though Barty Crouch Sr got very little more time than the minimum needed to shepherd his party home from the campground and to send Winky packing before he found himself under attack.

And that timing just doesn’t sound accidental to me. Not at all.

So. No. I’m not sure I buy that confession. Not at face value.

• • • •

Admittedly, Crouch Jr may have been fighting his way out from under Imperius for a while, and it may have gotten easier once Voldemort was vestigially back on the material plane and had returned to Britain, but I think it is really unlikely that he was still under the curse at all on the day of the World Cup. I rather think that somebody had lifted it from him during the night before and whispered some instructions regarding his assignment to do something to make his father dismiss the Elf. I suppose it is possible that he may have been only subliminally aware of it. Or believed that he was merely dreaming of escape.

I also think that Barty Jr knocked Winky out during the confusion himself, put the wand in her hand, and left her to try cover the situation while he pretended to be unconscious. Winky lied in her teeth trying to protect her Master’s secret, but she is a very poor liar and I’m not at all sure she even realized that it was her Master’s son who had stunned her.

After all, it is plain to see in retrospect that the whole point of the Dark Mark incident was to create a situation which would force Crouch Sr to dismiss his Elf. There is no way that Peter and Tom, in his vestigial state would have been able to overpower Crouch Sr if Winky had been there to assist him.

Which raises the thin possibility that Malfoy’s little diversion of Muggle baiting, and setting up his publicity smear campaign with Rita may have also been something less than totally fortuitous. But there seems to be a very real limit to how far one can carry any good conspiracy theory in Rowling’s Potterverse. Ms Rowling apparently doesn’t think in terms of conspiracy theories and keeps spoiling everybody’s fun. Plus, the Muggle-baiting at the World Cup really could be a coincidence.

Besides which, we have also stubbed our toes on the fact that in both OotP and HBP there is a point in the plotline that you just have to throw up your hands and accept the presence of a totally uncontrolled random element in the mix. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to have to do the same for GoF as well, and Malfoy’s Muggle-baiting party is a good candidate for it.

I suppose we do have the option of thrashing out a reading in which Peter and Tom were lurking at the World Cup themselves, under Polyjuice. Tom seems to be under no misapprehension as to who was in charge of that Muggle-baiting stunt and there was no time for anyone else to have told him or Peter about it. Tom also seems to have spoken with no one but Peter and the two Bartys for the duration of the year, and none of those had taken part in the incident to be able to say for sure that it was Malfoy in charge of it. The Bartys may have had their suspicions, however.

In any event, the rescue of Barty Crouch could proceed no further as long as Winky was still in place. I also rather think that Voldemort and Wormtail were already lurking on the Crouch property when the party returned from the campgrounds and were only listening for the *pop* which would have signaled Winky’s departure to effect their rescue of Barty Jr.

In fact, I rather suspect they may have been lurking on that property since the night before.

• • • •


Was Barty Crouch Jr’s confession just a superb actor’s last performance?

Or a completely delusional rambling unsupported by fact.

Considering my conclusions regarding Snape’s loyalties, it is difficult to account for the inconsistencies. Barty just plain seems to have had far more control over what and how much information he gave away in that soliloquy than he ought to have had if he really was under the influence of a truth serum. There are probably all sorts of reasons that Veritiserum testimony is not accepted as evidence by the Wizengamot.

But, that “confession” certainly advanced Crouch Jr’s own agenda more than it advanced Dumbledore’s. Readers are still taking young Barty’s word regarding his father’s character and actions on faith solely because the information was given out while “under Veritiserum”.

So. Was Barty Jr told to send up the Dark Mark at the World Cup with a view to disgracing his father? And, just incidentally, also sending out a public stand-by alert to Voldemort’s remaining supporters in a place where they were probably all gathered to see it?

Did Barty Jr have help weakening his father’s Imperius in order that he would be free and clear-headed and able do his part right at that particular time?

Was the Crouch household actually under attack by subversion before the World Cup?

Just how often did Winky check that house for rats?