Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw when I stood out in the courtyard that day.
The limp body of the young man I had loved for so many years lay lifeless in Hagrid's enormous arms. Like an abused rag doll, his arms hung slack at his side and his head lolled uselessly over Hagrid's elbow. Hagrid was sobbing so hard that his tears rolled off his cheeks and soaked the broken body he was so tenderly cradling. There was a terrible silence on our side of the courtyard, while Bellatrix's angry jeers filled the air. I remember thinking it strange that she was no longer delighting in our misery as she had during most of the course of the battle. Even though the Death Eaters had clearly been victorious, something filled her with a bitter rage that she relieved by shouting and throwing aimless hexes at us.
I remember wondering whether she was completely out of touch with reality.
Then it hit me.
Harry Potter was dead.
"No," I whispered with stubborn refusal. Then, a bit louder and more hysterical, "NO!"
I rushed forward toward the wall of Death Eaters. My father tried to restrain me, but it was no use. I had to see for myself. Maybe it was a dream, maybe he was only pretending. Maybe now that he had infiltrated enemy lines, he would leap triumphantly out of Hagrid's arms with a conspiratorial grin and proceed to win the war for us.
How completely stupid.
I expected a fight once I reached Hagrid. A couple of Death Eaters stepped forward, but Bellatrix held them back. "No," she hissed, "let her see. Let her be witness to the fact that Potter is really, truly dead, so that she can share it with the idiots and fools who will continue to fight."
There was coldness to her voice, a hardness that bore a vibrant likeness to Voldemort. A knot formed in my stomach at the realization that the Dark Lord was conspicuously absent. I pressed my fingertips against Harry's neck. No pulse, no steady breathing, nothing but cool and unfamiliar skin. The tears stung my eyes but I refused to acknowledge them.
That was the day my world took an irrevocable turn.
Later I would learn, through hushed whispers behind closed doors, that Harry had been successful in destroying all of Voldemort's horcruxes – including himself. An inconsolable Hermione was full of stories about torture and madness and sacrifice. At first I was angry. How dare he leave me without so much as a kind word or simple farewell? What could I have meant to him if he had been willing to spend months of suffering with Ron and Hermione but couldn't even manage a nod in my direction?
None of that mattered now.
The war was over, the Death Eaters had won, and Bellatrix had taken her place at the top of the hierarchy following Harry and Voldemort's simultaneous demise. There was no more reason to fight. As the weeks wore on, my anger turned to resolution. Perhaps there was something to be said for the world the Death Eaters were trying to create. Perhaps there was just cause behind separating the magical from the Muggle. We had only ever been miserable all these centuries that we had tried to co-exist. All the secrecy and lies and for what? To protect a race that was too weak to protect itself? I tried to voice this reasoning to Hermione, but the look of horror I got in return made me keep to silence whenever the subject came up. Eventually I learned to nod and smile and agree that yes, forming a second-generation Order of the Phoenix was a fantastic idea.
But I never stopped thinking about it.
One day, after many months of isolation and a powerful kind of loneliness, I disappeared.
Part of me did it out of spite; if Harry could be stupid and selfish and go on without me, then so could I without him. Part of me wondered whether anyone would even notice. But most of all I did it because of Barty.
Everyone thought that Barty Crouch Jr. was dead. A small group of witches and wizards had watched the dementor hover over him, seen him slouch back with apparent lifelessness, and assumed that he had been Kissed. But he hadn't. As he told me with a chuckle by the fireplace one night, "One dementor is nothing compared to a year spent with a dozen." At the time, it had been convenient to allow those around him to think that he was a hollow shell of the man he used to be. "Not too much of an act, to be honest," he admitted darkly. Under this guise, he had been able to slip away and rejoin the ranks of those who were still loyal to the Dark Lord.
After the war, I frequently took to wandering the streets alone, roaming up and down Diagon Alley in an attempt to sort out my thoughts. One or two places remained boarded up and abandoned, but the rest had recovered with inordinate speed. That September saw a return to the usual hustle and bustle that seemed to suggest that nothing had changed. One or two places, however, remained boarded up and abandoned. My heart ached painfully at the darkness inside my brothers' old joke shop. Fred. What had he died for, really? Selfishness and greed, that's what. Some absurd outdated tradition that had ended up costing more lives than it would have saved. I saw a large chunk of rubble in the street and picked it up, toying with it in my hand. We had rallied around an old man and his teenage accomplice, two wizards who locked themselves away and held secret conversations that the rest of the world was not good enough to be privy to. They felt they were above us. What were their motives, their end strategies? What would they do with the world once they had it? They would never tell us. How were we to know if it was any good? That was what we had risked our lives for.
Tears blurred my vision as I wound my arm back. Before I could launch the heavy rubble at the shop window, however, a hand grasped my wrist and forced me to be still.
"You really don't want to do that. Trust me, it won't solve anything."
Insulted and angry, I whipped my head around and was immediately silenced by the kindest smile I have ever seen. The man was tall and lanky, with warm brown eyes and a rash of freckles across his cheeks that belied his age. He had shaggy brown hair to match, a lock of which perpetually fell between his eyes, and he was looking at me as though he could see straight through me.
With a broken voice, I explained that it was my brother's shop, as though that somehow justified my actions. He stared at me in silence for so long that my eyes broke away out of discomfort and flickered down at his arm. The familiar skull-and-snake marking almost made me gasp out loud. A Death Eater. And I had just admitted to being a Weasley, a traitor to the blood in their eyes.
That was why, when he quietly asked me to come with him, I followed without thought.
He slipped his hand into mine, interlocking our fingers, and gave me a look that was more sympathetic than accusatory. Still, my heart pounded in my chest as we walked down the old cobbled street. Where was he going to take me? Would he imprison me on the spot, force me to Disapparate with him, and throw me down to the mercy of the Inner Circle? What sort of horrible plaything would I become for Bellatrix? I remembered Hermione's harrowing account of her last encounter with the dark witch, and a violent shudder ran down my spine.
It occurred to me, several long minutes later, that if this man had cruel intentions for me, he would have acted on them by now. He also wouldn't be holding my hand so compassionately nor glanced at me every few seconds to see if I was all right. After what felt like an eternity of silence, he started to point things out to me.
"Do you see that child over there? His name is Monterrey Blishwick, and he was orphaned after the war. We got him adopted straightaway and made sure he had a good home and loving parents."
"That house up there, just beyond that ridge, was completely destroyed. We rebuilt it, along with a whole host of others, with money out of our own pockets."
"The owner of that apothecary just got out of St. Mungo's. Once we got the place cleaned up, we made a tremendous donation that got good wizards like him the medicine that they needed."
At the end of the alleyway, he invited me inside the Leaky Cauldron for a drink. Even though I still didn't know his name, he was the first person with whom I'd felt any real affinity since Harry's death. We talked for hours in that dark little pub, discussing everything from philosophy to politics to Quidditch. It was hard to believe that he was a Death Eater. It was harder still to believe that I had fought so vigorously against them. The society they sought to create seemed so reasonable. The more he explained it, the more beautiful it appeared to me.
"I'm not saying that we're all charitable," he said, leaning in over the coffee that had long since gone cold. "There are certainly some of us who would rather keep their wealth and power to themselves. The Malfoys and the Blacks, that whole Inner Circle – they're all mad. But the rest of us – most of us – really believein this. Just look at what we've done so far. All we're trying to do is make a better world for the ones who deserve it."
Not everything he said was easy for me to accept at first. Muggle segregation I agreed with in its entirety. It was for their own good, really. Muggle subjugation, however, was a bit more difficult to swallow. I had to keep my focus on that one phrase: "a better world for those who deserved it". We diddeserve it, didn't we? We were born with magic in our blood. We inherited it. We evolved with it. It was the very nature of evolution for the strong to overtake the weak, and that was us. It was no more than human nature. Human progress. We were holding back progress if we continued to allow the Muggles to exist with us, side by side. "Just look at what we've done so far", he said. If we could achieve all this, imagine what we could accomplish without Muggle interference.
It was a simple gesture that changed my life forever. An outstretched hand, an offer of companionship after so many months of feeling detached from everyone around me. He was going home and he was asking if I wanted to join him. I knew my parents would be devastated. I knew Hermione and Luna and everyone else I'd once called "friend" would never understand, couldnever understand. But this man, this Death Eater who was nearly twice my age, was gazing on me with such tenderness that it felt like an insult to turn him down.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, grasped his hand and never looked back.
From that day on, Barty has never shown me anything but grace and kindness.
He brought me into his home, cared for me, and loved me like no man I have ever known. In time, he introduced me to the lot of Death Eaters with whom he largely associated. Clever and witty and inviting, I have never met a lovelier group of witches and wizards. Our home was a bit on the small side, but I loved to throw dinner parties and cocktail meet-ups regardless. Occasionally we would host charity balls whereby we would raise money for some pureblood family or another. Those were my favorite evenings. Barty was always so meticulous about dressing me in the finest gowns and most exquisite jewelry. Any time the Black sisters passed us, he made a point of kissing my cheek and loudly declaring how beautiful he thought I was.
Of course, I kept all my efforts focused on benefiting the magical community. Suppressing Muggles – that was the work of the Inner Circle, a necessary part of what we were doing but not one in which I was eager to participate. Eventually Barty took me to their manor house to have me branded. That was the first time I was confronted with Bellatrix in a setting outside of fancy dress and tea and cake. She terrified me, from her sinister sneer to the condescending way she circled me to look me over. A look passed between her and Lucius Malfoy that I was never able to decipher, but it made me feel very much as though I had been thrown to the wolves. Barty looked at me in empathy, yet kept his hands folded in front of him and remained silent.
"Very well," said Bellatrix at last as she affixed the Dark Mark to my forearm. "You may join our ranks on one condition: you must kill a Muggle. You area Weasley, after all. We need to know that we can trust you."
Not long after that, our world began to fall apart.
For one thing, the Order of the Phoenix had returned with a vengeance. Many of its former members were dead, but there were enough war survivors rallied around Harry and Dumbledore's inane agenda to reform the Order into something of a terrorist group. They managed to block us at every turn, preventing us from offering aid to those who needed it and liberating those who didn't. Worst of all, at the time I was branded, there were Order sympathizers in the Ministry – well-established, highly influential supporters.
My own father was one of them.
Then there was the matter of my initiation. The trouble was, Bellatrix wasn't satisfied by idea of me simply tossing a Killing Curse at a random Muggle walking down the street. I might have managed it then (though it's hard to say; I doubt that I ever had the stomach for cold-blooded murder in any form). She wanted me to slaughter a very particular Muggle. As she was the new Dark Queen of our high society, her opinion mattered, and that was how I found myself standing in the home of one Miss Georgia McDonald.
Georgia was a very pretty blond girl scarcely older than I was, who had made the tragic mistake of falling in love with a wizard. As I stared down at her cowering figure with my wand pointed at her chest, I noticed that she was hugging her middle rather unusually. It was almost…
"My god," I breathed, lowering my wand instinctively. "She's pregnant."
Barty put a steadying hand over mine and raised my wand arm up again. I had told him that he needn't have accompanied me, but as I stood there trembling, I was glad he did. "You can't think of it that way," he murmured in my ear, gentle yet firm. "She's a Muggle, a common beast. Any offspring she might produce would only serve to drag down the rest of us. They're like weeds, my beloved Ginevra. You've got to get rid of them so more beautiful flowers can grow."
In the end, I couldn't bring myself to do more than aim a handful of Cruciatus curses at her, most of which missed her and hit the floor instead. Every time she looked at me, I saw my old affection for Harry burning in her eyes. I knew what it was like to ache with desire for someone I shouldn't, that complicated feeling we all too often mistake for love.
I did not kill that girl. I would like that to be on record. I did not kill Georgia McDonald. Out of his love and compassion for me, Barty took care of that and allowed me to take the credit. I suppose you'll call it "blame" when I stand trial in the morning. I will say that I feel saddened that her life needed to be taken at all. That was not something I wanted. I was only ever interested in the health and well being of the magical community. You'll tell me I was happy to turn a blind eye to all the murders committed by the Inner Circle, so long as everything magical was peacefully preserved. I'm not going to lie and tell you I wasn'thappy. Those years I spent with Bartemius Crouch Junior were some of the happiest of my life. Now that you've sentenced him to death and are likely to do the same with me – which, by the way, doesn't make you much better than us, I'll have you know – I have only this to say:
I have no regrets.