AUTHOR'S NOTE: This fic was written in response to the Fiction Alley "What's Your OTP?" challenge. From the randomly generated line "The Golden Snitch has a massive crush on Bartemius Crouch".
Two days before the start of the Quidditch World Cup, floating high above the magnificent new stadium, the Snitch caught sight of him.
Without a moment's hesitation, it folded its wings and dived a hundred feet through the warm, limpid August air, fluttering to a halt at a point just above the left lens of his sparkling pince-nez.
These days, Quidditch was played with a winged golden ball, instead of the traditional small bird. However, in the very highest quality models, the enchantments that animated the Snitch retained some of the instincts and emotions of the original Snidget. The time and expense involved in the creation of these snitches was much greater, but, because of their unpredictability, such Snitches were considered by connoisseurs to have greater character, and to give a much more exciting chase.
This Snitch, woken from its long, dark slumber into a day full of life and sunlight, suddenly felt the urges of its progenitor stirring inside it, and found itself irresistibly drawn to a flash of gold from something shiny far below. More details came into focus as it swooped closer – points of brightness in the most enticing patterns – twin twinkles from the jewelled cufflinks at his sleeves; answering sparkles from brass buttons, tie-pin and watch-chain; the glare of the pocket watch as its owner took it out to check the time; the lustre of sunlight on spectacles… and then, as the snitch got closer, other details came into view, fainter but no less alluring – the razor-straight track along its crest, the bewitching symmetry of the dark robes, so perfectly arranged, the straight lines, and the adorable, controlled rigidity, so unlike those louts that manhandled it on the Quidditch pitch…
The Snitch was in love.
Bartemius Crouch cursed and staggered backwards as a tiny, golden bullet came streaking out of nowhere, headed for a point straight between his eyes. One of the gilt chairs of the Top Box caught him painfully behind the knee and he would have fallen, but the Bulgarian Trade Minister grabbed his elbow and held him up. Crouch glared at the offending golden object, now drifting through the air in front of his face.
"Merlin's beard, what's that?" he gasped.
"Is snitch," said the Bulgarian Trade Minister.
Now it was close to the object of its affections, the Snitch exerted all its considerable charm to entice this delightful creature. It unfolded its glittering wings, displaying its highly polished body and elegantly crafted pinions, now sculling in long, graceful arcs, now hovering before the glints of his eyes, flirting and chirring its wings in playful abandon, throwing up patterns of reflected sunlight. The object of its admiration was beginning to respond, too, making clumsy passes at it with his paw – far too slow to hope to catch it, of course, but perhaps playing hard to get?
Crouch swatted ineffectually at the besotted Snitch, which was coming dangerously close to his face.
"Get this ridiculous thing away from me!" he cried. "Bagman! Where is the wretched fellow when you need him? Bagman!"
There was a rush of air, and warm, sweaty fingers closed around the Snitch. With a sinking heart, it realised that it was trapped once more. It struggled in the firm, meaty grasp, desperate for a final sight of its idol.
Bartemius Crouch was knocked to the ground by the same rush of air, as Viktor Krum came up behind him on his broom and braked to a violent halt, the Golden Snitch clasped firmly in his hand. Beaming, he held out the hand containing to the Snitch.
"It is yours now," he declared. "It loves you so. I see it follow you. So much love. You must be proud."
"Don't be absurd!" snapped Crouch, clambering back to his feet and attempting to regain his dignity. "What do I want with these ridiculous trifles? I am here to conduct a serious discussion with the Minister here on the reform of Bulgaria's collective Manticore farms, not on some frivolous souvenir hunt."
The effect of this remark was astonishing. The Bulgarian minister's genial, avuncular smile froze on his face, and Krum's cheerful grin vanished, to be replaced by an incredulous scowl.
"You will take it, please," said the minister stiffly. "I do not how you do in this country, Department Head Crouch, but in our homeland, a gift between wizards is a sacred thing. I am sorry also that you think our fine Bulgarian Snitches are no more than frivolous souvenirs. Perhaps our Manticore products, also, are no good. I think you do not wish to work with us. Very well." He turned to go.
Crouch gulped. "My dear sir…" he said hastily. "You must realise that I had no intention… no idea… a cultural misunderstanding… such fine workmanship, exquisitely done… skilfully caught… a privilege and an honour…"
The minister relented. "There," he said, still stiffly, but smiling now. "All friends. Happy now. Such a fine snitch, no?"
Crouch took the fluttering thing in his hand. It purred, opened its wings and lay still in his palm, quivering faintly.
"Delightful," he said, in a voice made unusually warm by relief. He plucked a silk handkerchief, embroidered with the Ministry crest, from his breast pocket, furled the Snitch's wings with care, and carefully enveloped it in its folds.
The snitch was in ecstasy. Held so close in the palm of this fine creature, spoken to in that voice, touched by those cool, papery hands… and now wrapped so carefully in folds of soft material, so unlike the horrible, sweaty Quidditch kit box…
Like a canary when a cloth is put over its cage, the darkness quickly overcame the snitch, and it dozed obediently in the darkness of Crouch's handkerchief. It lay quiescent in the pocket of his Muggle suit for many months, and when the light came to rouse it again, the world of Bartemius Crouch had turned upside down.
It was another day in the Crouch house, and Bartemius was sitting on the floor of his bedroom, trying to remember what he had forgotten. He was almost there, he thought, if he could just concentrate…
Oh, the warm fuzziness had been all very well for a while, certainly. But Bartemius had been brought up in the old school, when the battle against Grindelwald's predecessor – what was his name again? – had been at its height. Austerity had been the order of the day, and he had been brought up to avoid idleness and self-indulgence of all kinds as something shameful. He just wasn't the kind of man to sit down and relax in a fuzzy, blissed-out haze – not like the young people going into the Ministry these days – no, he was a brain worker, and the whole thing was making him uneasy.
He had started to force himself to think again. He could only assume that he had been very unwell – there was no other explanation for the fact that he never seemed to find himself in the Ministry, and seemed to be confined to his bedroom most of the time. A work-related injury, perhaps – brought on by the incompetence of a subordinate, no doubt…
Honest work, that was the key to recovery. In moments of solitude (from what? he wondered vaguely) he would push his tired, contentedly fuzzy brain, flexing parts of it that were rusty with disuse, and other feelings were starting to emerge: anxiety, worry, shame, and above all, a burning and corrosive resentment – but resentment of what?
Perhaps he could find some clues in his diary? It was not in its usual place on the bedside table, but perhaps he had left it in one of his pockets when he was taken ill? A quick search of the neat, sober robes in his wardrobe proved fruitless. Perhaps the Muggle suit, then? Ah, here was something in the pocket: a lump, wrapped in a handkerchief.
He was starting to tire now, and he had to sit down on the floor to unwrap his parcel. Out of it floated the most beautiful thing he had ever seen – delicate, golden and glowing. It fluttered its wings, brushing against his ear with a chirring sound – and something connected in his memory.
"The Quidditch World Cup!" he exclaimed, just as the door opened.
A short, scruffy, man with thinning fair hair and a harassed expression came in, carrying a tray with a plate of sandwiches and a glass of milk.
"Dinner is served," he began, and then a look of irritation crossed his face as he took in the implications of Crouch's words. He sighed resignedly, put the tray down on the dressing table and drew out his wand.
"Imperius," he said, and Bartemius's world was pleasant and vague again.
Peter Pettigrew looked at his charge with irritation.
"Come on," he said, "what is it this time? Hand it over." He reached out, plucked the handkerchief from Crouch's unresisting hands, and examined it closely. "Whatever turns you on, I suppose," he muttered. "Ministry crests all over this bloody house – pathetic – even on your long johns – what kind of loser embroiders Ministry crests on his underwear?"
A febrile cry interrupted him, weak, quavering and strangely inhuman.
"Wormtail! What's all that smoke? Where's my bottle? I need you! Wormtail!"
Pettrigrew shuddered and left the room to attend to his master, leaving the door ajar.
After a minute, the Snitch fluttered down from a far corner of the room. Something was not right, it knew. The hibernation must have been a long one, for the warm breezes were gone, and the atmosphere was both chilly and stuffy. Unless it was just something to do with this room… for something had certainly worked terrible changes on its dear, dear master. Gone were the pleasing symmetries, the regular lines and the sparkles – though it felt sure it would have known that ruler-straight poise anywhere. Yes, without a doubt, something was very wrong. It moved closer to investigate.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, warm and unaccountably happy, Bartemius saw a beautiful, winged golden ball flash past his face. He beamed at the brightness and delicacy of its feathery wings, and reached out a hand to stroke the creature, but it dodged instinctively aside, quick as thought. Enthralled, he rose to his feet to follow it. Again he lunged for it, and again it slipped though his fingers and through the door.
Beaming at the lovely new game he had discovered, Bartimius followed the Golden Snitch out into the corridor.
Dodging and weaving, the Snitch led the befuddled man out past the kitchen, where a cursing Pettigrew was wrestling with a smoking cauldron almost as big as himself, and out into the kitchen garden. The winds were strong and chilly, and the Snitch could feel its energy returning in the fresh air. The same seemed true for its master, who made a spring to catch it, and ended up face-down in a bed of rosemary.
Bartemius inhaled the pungent smell of the plants, and the fog around his brain cleared a little. He looked up and saw what was plainly a Golden Snitch hovering in front of his nose. This Snitch must be important, he decided, or he would never have gone gallivanting through a herb garden after it in broad daylight… but what was so important?
The fog descended again, but the pretty, winged ball was still there. Chuckling, he stretched out his hand, and when it danced away he got to his feet and followed.
The chase was painful as much as pleasant, through beds of mint, lavender, lemon balm and other, stronger herbs Winky used in the stimulating potions that helped him keep up with his work. At last, with a heroic dive that sent him tumbling into the goldfish pond, his hand closed around the Snitch.
The shock of the chill water brought his memory back as nothing else had done. He had been tricked – betrayed – made a fool of – and by his own flesh and blood. Worse, a terrible evil was being brewed up in his own house! He cringed at the thought of what people would say, but he knew his duty, however disagreeable, as he always had. There was one man left who would help him, and he must go to him at once.
A shout from the open back door told him that he had been discovered. Well, that did not matter now. He was wandless and could not fight back, but he did not need a wand for what he had to do.
He gathered his dwindling resources of energy, clenched his fist around the quivering Snitch, cried out "Apparate!" and disappeared.
Bartemius Crouch's fate is well known, but nobody knows exactly what happened to the Golden Snitch. Like birds, Snitches do not keep their vitality forever, especially once they are parted from their mates. Imagine it, if you will, swooping over the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch, and finding an honourable end as a treasured souvenir of a match well fought. Or, if you prefer, produced as the evidence that finally exposed a blustering Draco Malfoy as a cad who cheated at Quidditch. Perhaps the Snidget side of its nature grew stronger, and it joined the other small birds of Hogwarts in the hedges and trees. Maybe it went wider afield and frolicked with unicorns in the Forbidden Forest, or interrupted the centaurs at their stargazing.
In her final year at Hogwarts, Miss Luna Lovegood suddenly acquired a fine pair of long, dangly, feathery golden earrings of which she was inordinately proud, and which she always referred to as her "good luck earrings". But this may be no more than coincidence.