Characters, history © J.K. Rowling

Takes place somewhere around the middle of Goblet of Fire. Continuity may be slightly screwed up, but I daresay it's worth it.

*This* indicates emphasizing, like bold letter may do if I knew how to make them show in this site.

I have him in the corner, bound and gagged, still slightly groggy from the potion in injected him when he was turning his back to the nice black dog on the street. He doesn't look so high and mighty now from where I stand, leaning on the other wall of the cave I'm forced to live in, looking down at the man who forced me, starting to come around, realizing where he is. I have in him the darkest corner, the filthiest, most stinking corner where the air is barely breathable and the light is nothing but a pale haze with stone walls all around him, pressing, pushing. Exactly as I was, let him feel exactly as I've felt. I'd leave him there for fourteen years if I could, only so he'd know. Exactly like I was, only that me, I didn't deserve it.

He blinks at the sunlight from the entrance to the cave, catches sight of me and I see him going pale and starting to shiver, so I smile menacingly, just to make him feel at home. I'm quite a sight, and I know that. He knows that too, he ought to. It's all thanks to him.

So I look on as he scrambles and presses himself backward against the stone, enjoying the fear, the humiliation. The venerable Barty Crouch of the all-powerful Ministry of Magic, tricked and captured by one mad rascal Sirius Black, now sitting in a cave pissing all over himself as far as I know and don't mind at all if I'm right. How must it feel. Of course, he won't remember any of this when it's all over. I may not be half the wizard I was, but memory-altering charms; they're a knack. It's like that when no one can be allowed to remember your face, because anyone who's seen you can give you away. There's no place for a connection, for friendship, for anything, because you never know who will break, you never know who they'll ask. One day, and then a little magic work, and nobody cares anymore about one more weirdo they met along the way. And I'm all alone, but all alone *outside*.

It's been enough show-off, I reckon after a while. Much as I like to see him squirm - and I bloody do, too - there's business to attend to.

And I'm not the cold-blooded torturer he thinks I am.

"Hullo, Mr. Crouch," I say lightly, in a voice that's uncomfortably amused.

He opens and closes his mouth a few times, not sure what to say. I allow myself a few more minutes of grinning like a skull at his antics. Get is over with, old man, the faster you talk, the faster you're out of here and back to the precious school, where nobody'll care you've been away, because if they do, well, this whole thing just isn't worth it.

"Y-you . . .!" He manages finally.

I roll my eyes in a long, theatrical gesture. "Honestly, is that the best you can do? What's next? 'You'll never get away with this'?" laughing, I clutch my chest in mock-stun. "Oh, I'm just terrified."

Well, yes, I guess it's me who's being all kitsch now, but I didn't plan this anywhere from the point of watching him wake up and creeping him till he's gone half-mad wondering when I'll finally kill him. But I can't let it show, because if he gets just one glimpse of how my heart's pounding right now, it's over. There won't be any more fear, and fear's all I've been living on for the last year or so.

"They'll find me . . ." he stammers, but that's expected. "They'll find me, they'll drag you back to Azkaban like the mad dog you are."

I laugh, shortly, without the least hint of bitterness, bend down to look him into the eyes with my best evil glare, mastered way back in school when these kind of things ended with a laugh. World's changed a lot since then. "Mad dog, that's a new one, congratulations. I thought there aren't any more names you will all manage to come up with. You're full of surprises, Mr. Crouch." He isn't sure what to make of this banter, and it's good. It throws him off balance, it frightens him, and he should be frightened. I can see sweat breaking on that fat, ugly face of his. Now. "I'm afraid there's not much chance you'll be rescued anytime soon, so we might as well have a little chat, you and I."

He swallows hard. I'm getting tired of this, the evil smiles, the verbal jabs, playing with my pray. No, that isn't a good word, pray. I'm not, never been, a predator, the predator they made of me.

Suddenly I want to get this over with as much as he does, at least.

"What do you want?" his voice actually comes out stronger now. He'll talk; he'll talk as much as I want him to. I'll let him go then, and cast the forgetting charm, and nothing will be left of this little conversation, no traces, but things will be different, they will.

"What do I want?" slow; steady. Don't let him see I'm tense. Ask it, damn you, ask it. Swallow the anxiety, don't let your voice shake, ask it, you idiot, just ask and be done with it. It won't take very long . . . "I want *answers*."

He nods, once, quickly. He doesn't understand anything. So I get up and I start pacing, and I speak quickly and there isn't the slightest hint of fear in my voice as it rings and echoes in the cave that's become my home. "I've been in Azkaban fourteen years, Mr. Crouch. I was supposed to be there much longer, despite the fact that I'm innocent. But that fact was never discovered. You know why? Sure you do. *Because there was no trial.* You sent me to Azkaban without a trial, left me there to rot."

That astounds him - I can see it. I can see the perspiration glistering as the pupils dial and the muscles tense and twitch nervously and I revel in it all. It takes my mind away from the lump in my throat and quiver of my fingers. In silence, I wait.

Abruptly he straightens. "There was no need for a trial," he declares. "Any intelligent man in his right mind could see you murdered these people, not to mention caused the death of Lily and James Potter. When the facts are so clear, procedure is unnecessary."

A shiver runs through me. He's so confident, he's really sure it was me who did it, he hasn't the slightest doubt, never mind what happened last year, and fourteen years ago when he proved nothing, none of them proved anything. But they're sure it's me, they let themselves believe. I guess it's easier, it makes them feel secure that there's a man behind bars, any man, anyone at all.

"Unnecessary? A bloody trial?! You didn't even let me defend myself!" I take a deep breath, relax, don't fall apart, not yet . . . "Why??"

He gasps, pants, chest rising and falling quickly. I stand right over him now, tower over him. He's so small and miserable. I have power here, now, I rule things, I'll say whatever I'd like and make him say whatever I'd like.

He squirms like a little worm, tries to look away from me. "It was t-the M- Ministry's decision, I j-just executed their . . ."

"Following orders, were you?" I tease, but without the slightest smile. Give me answers, give me answers, you bastard . . .!

Another gasp. Those little eyes of his go wide, he stares, he shivers. Let him. Let him. "No . . .! It was . . . there was no time then, there were others to catch, and later."

Forgotten? No! "Why?"

"We . . . we couldn't take the risk of letting a Death-Eater run loose until we . . ."

Stop it. Stopitstopitstopit you lying monster I wasn't a Death-Eater you know I wasn't . . . "*Why??*"

"Pettigrew's family demanded immediate action, the Potters . . ."

But I didn't kill them I didn't for God's sake you know I didn't . . . "*Why??*"

"We had to blame *someone!*" He screams now. I don't see him. I see red, and black, and nothingness, and I hear him from far away screaming and shouting and begging and crying . . . "People were frightened! People were angry! The Dark Lord was gone and they wanted vengeance, they wanted us to clean up, they wanted to see action, results. We had to lock up someone, anyone, and there you were. The people demanded *justice*!"

And I almost scream "Justice? Is that it? You threw me there for the sake of justice??" but I don't. I don't say anything.

I bend down and I untie him. As he springs out of the cave and begins to run back in the direction of Hogsmeade I cast the memory charm and watch him slow down until he's wandering aimlessly, confused and thinking himself lost. Then I turn back to my cave, my home, and I fall on the dusty floor in the stinking corner, and I think.

Justice. The people demanded justice. They wanted to see bodies hanged. I was in the way. It's so simple, it's so understandable, it's so terrible. Justice. Someone had to be blamed. People found an excuse and let the manhunt begin. Justice. Fourteen years spent in the dark. Had I come really into the light at all . . .?

Justice. Tears flow to my eyes. The victim of justice. So simple. Peter would have cherished it. He would have laughed at what they've done to me; he would have found the craziness, the cruelty, the irony charming. If I had the chance I'd have really killed him, grabbed his scrawny neck and squeezed just like that. Not turn him in to be judged, not imprisoned, not let them deal him their twisted justice. Would have killed him, there, on the spot.

I close my eyes, bury my face in my hands, and crawl into the darkness.