A Tragic Family Tale

In 1981, near the end of the year, Bartemius “Barty” Crouch Jr was captured alongside three known Death Eaters, and accused of participating in the torture of Frank and Alice Longbottom. Even though he pleaded innocence, the jury, led by his own father Bartemius “Barty” Crouch Sr, found him guilty and imprisoned him in Azkaban.

How did it come to be that a young, intelligent man from a seemingly good home got involved with the most evil wizard of all time? Was he evil? Did he simply lose his way? Or was there perhaps a deeper reason that led to this tragic outcome? This article will try to uncover the truth behind why Barty Crouch Jr ended up becoming one of Voldemort’s most trusted followers, and if he in fact committed the crime of which he was convicted.

Early Childhood

Barty Crouch Jr was born around 1962. Due to him being a fairly peripheral character in the Harry Potter universe, factual details surrounding his childhood are limited. Being as it may, indirectly, some assumptions can be deduced by taking a closer look at his father, Barty Crouch Sr.  

When Harry, Ron and Hermione visited Sirius in the cave outside Hogsmeade in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (ch 27), Sirius reveals a little bit of information about the character of Barty Crouch sr., saying that Crouch sr. was power-hungry and that “if he’s ever taken a day off work because of illness before this[1], I’ll eat Buckbeak.” Besides serving the purpose of being an amusing remark, it reveals his true dedication to his job. Furthermore, Sirius continues, explaining that “anything that threatened to tarnish his reputation had to go; he had dedicated his whole life to becoming Minister of Magic.” It is therefore safe to assume that even before the First Wizarding War, Crouch Sr’s ambitions affected his family life and thereby his son. Having a fiercely righteous, ambitious and power-hungry father must have resulted in a childhood with strict rules, and most likely an underlying expectation to be perfect. To the outside world they must’ve seemed like a happy family. Due to Crouch Sr’s job at the Ministry, he and his wife (“a whispy-looking witch[2]) most likely had a nice house in a good neighbourhood with all the material riches many associates with happiness. Underneath the surface, however, the emotional neglect, caused by his father’s indifference, had to take its toll on young Barty. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (ch 36), Crouch Jr himself, under the influence of Veritaserum, reveals that his father “loved her[3] as he had never loved me.” One of the questions it generates is: Why wasn’t Mrs. Crouch’s love enough? The most likely answer is that Mrs. Crouch’s love and acceptance simply got overshadowed by Mr. Crouch’s indifference[4].  The First Wizarding War broke out in 1970 when Crouch Jr was about 8 years old. At the time, Crouch Sr was the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. It stands to reason that it would be yet a couple of years before he took, or was offered, the position of Judge in the Council of Magical Law alongside his main job at the Ministry, as he presumably landed the position by proving himself highly skilled and effective. As his fanaticism rose, so did his absence from home as he, in the following years, quickly rose through the Ministry[5].

A Dangerous Path

In the following 6 years, Voldemort was at his height of power and chaos must have raged like an uncontrollable fire throughout the country. Crouch Sr had given, or was just about to give, the Aurors new powers which allowed them to “kill rather than capture.” Furthermore, he “authorized the use of the Unforgivable Curses against suspects” and overall became “as ruthless and cruel as many on the Dark Side[6] More determined than ever, Crouch Sr tried to rid the Wizarding community of any evil by fighting fire with fire. Now, being both Head of the Department of Magical law Enforcement and the Judge in the Council of Magical Law, the work load must have been immense. On top of all that he was even beginning to be readied for the position as Minister of Magic, his lifelong goal, and no time was reserved for his wife and son, who, in the meantime, had become a teenager. Crouch Sr had been more or less absent from his son’s life for the past many years. At this point, one could imagine that Crouch Sr perhaps was no longer able to separate his work from his family life, resulting in a somewhat similar cruel behavior towards his poor wife and son. That is, if he ever saw them at all. Feeling unwanted and unloved by his father, Crouch Jr probably began to seek out people who’d fill his need for attention and acceptance. It is commonly known that teenagers rebel against their parents, showing them that they are not dealing with a child anymore. Often, they exaggerate to prove their point. [7] It is therefore not surprising if Crouch Jr, being a rebellious teenager, would’ve wanted to go against all of his father’s principles and turning to the Dark side. If it happened gradually or more abruptly is difficult to say, but amongst the Death Eaters he must have found a place of acceptance; a place where his intelligence was rewarded. In exchange, Voldemort demanded total devotion and obedience. To a boy like Crouch Jr, it could have seemed like a minor detail, coming from a home with similar expectations; replacing one prominent and power-hungry father figure with another. As the years went by, Crouch Jr got more invested in the course and it is reasonable to assume that Voldemort grew more and more pleased with him.

A Fate is Sealed

On October 31st 1981, the world abruptly changed once more as Voldemort was hit by his own curse rebounding caused by Lily Potter’s desperate attempt to project her son Harry. Suddenly, the Death Eaters were without a leader and they sought out to find him and bring him back. Among them was young Barty. On a fateful night, he was in the company of three known Death Eaters, who skillfully had succeeded in talking their way out of being imprisoned: Bellatrix Lestrange, her husband Rodolphus and his brother Rabastan.[8] How much Crouch Jr was practically involved in capturing Frank and Alice Longbottom is impossible to say. The question of whether or not he participated in torturing them will be addressed at the end.

Until this point, it is reasonable to believe that young Barty had simply lost his way in his act of rebellion against his father. Assuming that he committed other minor bad deeds that increased in cruelty as time passed, he still might have had a shimmer of hope for redemption. Looking at his behaviour at the trial, it seems that he only realised the horror of what he was participating in when it was too late. His sheer panic and despair during the trial seems too real to be an act and may indicate that there, indeed, was still some good left inside him. He knew a border had been crossed; that he finally had done something unforgivable. He was out of his depth and he desperately wanted to be saved. As well-versed readers know, the rescue never came.

As Sirius told Harry, Ron and Hermione in the cave just outside of Hogsmeade, the trial “wasn’t much more than an excuse for Crouch to show how much he hated the boy.” It was likely his father’s cruel treatment combined with the words “You are no son of mine! (…) I have no son![9] that tipped him over the edge. From that moment, he pledged his loyalty wholeheartedly to the person who, in his mind, accepted him for who he was. By Voldemort’s side, he had found a place where he could shine. Presumably, it only deepened his devotion to continuously excel in the increasingly difficult tasks bestowed upon him in later years. After his mother’s death in 1982[10], Crouch Jr went haywire. Even though his father tried to subdue him by using the Imperius Curse, nothing was keeping him from pursuing his fanatic ways. He was rescued by Voldemort in 1994 and was soon sent on a big undercover mission at Hogwarts.

The irony of how Crouch Jr ended his days is not lost on the readers. Had he indeed participated in the torture of Frank and Alice Longbottom, some might say that justice was served by the Dementor’s Kiss; a fate worse than death. Knowing how J. K. Rowling rarely writes anything arbitrary, a bold statement could be made that, in her own way, she has revealed to the readers what took place at the end of the tragic year of 1981.

[1] Referencing Barty Crouch Sr’s absence from his duties as a judge in the Triwizard Tournament (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
[2] Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, chapter 30
[3] Barty Crouch Jr’s mother
[4] The importance of father love: History and contemporary evidence. (Rohner, Ronald P.,Veneziano, Robert A.: Review of General Psychology, Vol 5(4), Dec 2001)
[5] Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (ch 27)
[6] Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (ch 27)
[7] Adolescence and Parental Approval by Carl E. Pickhardt Ph. D. (Psychology Today)
[8] The Black family tree (Pottermore.com)
[9] Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (ch 30)
[10] Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (ch 27)

Picture credit: © JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

A Tragic Family Tale


9 thoughts on “A Tragic Family Tale

  1. I love this! All the posts I’ve read about the Harry Potter world, and never one about the Crouch Family! But this is really well thought out, and I love it


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