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2002-2003
     
       
       
HPfGU #52074

TBAY: Screw-up!Crouches With Invisibility

RE: TBAY: Screw-up!Crouches With Invisibility


"Hi, guys," said Elkins, sauntering through the door to the kitchen of the Safe House. Melody, Cindy and Risti all stared at her. "What's up? Cindy, why did Pippin just tell me that you're an imposter? And why on earth are there two of me out there playing on the swings? I don't even like swings! They make me feel all dizzy and sick and...oooooh, is that coffee?"

"You're just another spy, aren't you," demanded Cindy suspiciously.

"'Another spy?' Thanks, Sneaky." Elkins accepted a cup of coffee and settled herself into a chair. "What, have you guys been playing around with that new Persil Automatic or something? I thought this was an Invisibility Cloak discussion."

"You have a letter from Tom," Risti told her.

"A letter from Tom?" Elkins asked. "Let me see!"

Risti handed her the letter. Elkins glanced down at it, nodded once to herself, pulled a blue pencil out of one pocket, and then stopped, frowning.

"Oh," she said.

"What?"

"Oh. Well, I was about to explain to Tom that the other Elkins' inference that Barty must have actually entered the maze probably derived from all of the things that he had done. Removed all those obstacles. Taken out monsters. It's always seemed implausible to me that he really could have done all of that from the perimeter, because it seems to me that it would require not only being able to cast spells through the shrubbery, but also around corners, which I don't believe is possible. I've therefore always assumed that he must have slipped into the maze itself at some point during the proceedings. But."

"But?"

"But. I've just remembered that he actually tells Harry that he did it all from the perimeter. In Chapter Thirty-five. Page 677, in my edition:

'I was patrolling around it, able to see through the outer hedges, able to curse many obstacles out of your way. I stunned Fleur Delacour as she passed. I put the Imperius Curse on Krum, so that he would finish Diggory and leave your path to the cup clear.'

Elkins shrugged. "So I guess he really didn't enter the maze. Had he done so, he would have bragged about it. It still seems weird to me, I must say, but I guess it's the truth. So okay. There's no need for a second Invisibility cloak. Point conceded." She sat back in her chair and sipped contentedly at her coffee.

Cindy threw her a look of weary disgust. "You really don't have even a shred of True Wizarding Pride. Do you, Elkins?"

"Nope," said Elkins happily.

Risti stirred some milk into her second cup of coffee. "I had no idea invisibility cloaks could be so interesting. We hardly ever talk about them."

"Yeah," Elkins agreed, "but you know, those other Elkinses out there filled me in, and I'm really not sure you've really gone anywhere with this."

"We have so!" Cindy exclaimed. "See, once we know that law enforcement wizards are more likely to have invisibility cloaks, we can have all manner of fun. Let's go back to this idea that Mrs. Longbottom stunned Neville and concealed him under Frank's invisibility cloak the night the Pensieve Four burst into their home..."

"But Cindy," objected Elkins gently. "What we've determined here isn't that law enforcement wizards are more likely to have Invisibility Cloaks. In fact, what we've determined is precisely the reverse."

Cindy frowned.

"Well, think about it," said Elkins. "If Crouch Jr. only had one Invisibility Cloak, rather than two of them, then the cloak in question was probably his father's, because that's the one that we know for sure does exist. The Crouch family had an Invisibility Cloak. That's canon. So there's really no need at all for Moody to have had one as well. And if Moody didn't have one, then why on earth would you assume that Frank Longbottom had one? After all, Frank was an Auror, just like Moody was. Crouch, on the other hand, was the Head of the DMLE. So if there's no second cloak, then that makes it less likely that Frank Longbottom had one in his house. Not more."

"Well," began Cindy. "Moody was a retired Auror..."

"Yeah. And Crouch was a retired Head of the DMLE. Yet he still had an Invisibility Cloak. So." Elkins shrugged and took another sip of her coffee.

"But what does that do to my theory about James' Invisibility Cloak?" wailed Melody.

"Oh, your theory can still hold," Elkins reassured her. "You just have to assume that James' father was once someone really important. Not just an Auror. Something more like the Head of the DMLE."

"I think that was where we came in, actually," said Melody. "Wasn't that my original speculation?"

"Was it? Oh, well, in that case you're fine. This entire Mrs.-Longbottom-hid-Neville-with-Frank's-Invisibility-Cloak speculation, though?" Elkins shook her head sadly. "Getting less plausible by the minute, I'm afraid. Where do you guys keep your yellow flags?"

"Yeah, well you know what?" Cindy snarled. "I think that you're an imposter too!"

"There's an easy way to find out," pointed out Eileen from the doorway. Everybody jumped.

"Are you the real Eileen?" asked Risti politely. "Or are you an imposter? Just so we know."

"If I were an imposter, I'd hardly tell you, would I?" Eileen turned to Elkins. "Elkins," she said. "Neville was in the house the night his parents were tortured, but his mother saved him by throwing an Invisibility Cloak over him and then Stunning him. Yes or no?"

"No," Elkins replied instantly, stroking Coney, who had just jumped into her lap. "There would be absolutely no dramatic point to having him be there at all if he did not actually witness the event. Either he was there, in which case we're looking at a Memory Charmed Neville scenario of one sort of another, or he was not there, in which case we're left with Faith's reading. But why on earth would JKR have him be there, yet unconscious and oblivious? I mean, really! What on earth would be the point? Where's the opportunity for a Bang?"

Eileen nodded with satisfaction.

"Right," she said. "Okay, second speculation. Neville was in the house that night, but his mother saved him by throwing an Invisibility Cloak over him and then body binding him. Yes or no?"

Elkins thought about it.

"Well," she said, at length. "That one does have possibilities. Not only does it allow Neville to be a witness, but it also accounts for his expression of utter horror when Hermione body-binds him at the end of PS/SS, as well as for the fact that when he is then rewarded for being victimized in this fashion, he does not look pleased, but instead 'white with shock.' Also, it carries on that good old JKR tradition of nameless martyr mothers sacrificing themselves for their sons."

She took another sip of coffee.

"So that one's not as bad," she concluded. "But it still has that Yellow Flag Invisibility Cloak problem. Also, I myself rather prefer the speculation that if anyone did such a thing, then it was Barty Jr. The text does seem to suggest some sort of bond between them. Neville and Junior react strangely to each other all the way through GoF. Barty's interested in Neville from the very start. Neville volunteers the name of the dread Cruciatus Curse in DADA class, which seems strangely out of character for him. He seems simultaneously terrified of Moody and intrigued by him. A mystic bond between the two might account for some of that. And besides," she adds, after a moment's thought. "It's blackly ironic. And you know how much I like that sort of thing."

"Now, that one's really Elkins," Eileen told the room.

"Oh, bother," sighed Elkins.

"What? What's wrong? Didn't you want to be really you?"

"No, no, no. It's not that. It's just that...well, it's just that now I'm finding that Mrs. Longbottom Does A Body-bind scenario rather plausible. It really is a lot more thematically consistent with the series as a whole than the Barty Jr. version, you know." She frowned down at Coney, then shoved it roughly off of her lap. The bunny hopped away across the kitchen, looking indignant.

"You're right," said Cindy smugly. "That really is Elkins."

"Thematic consistency," snorted Eileen. "What about some plot consistency, eh? Weren't you just arguing a few minutes ago, Elkins, that the fact that Barty Jr. had only one cloak made it seem implausible that the Longbottoms had an Invisibility Cloak at all?"

"What do you do, Eileen?" asked Melody. "Listen at doors?"

"This is Theory Bay." Eileen pointed out. "There are no private conversations. So. Barty Jr. was using his father's Invisibility Cloak. There's no indication that either Longbottom or Moody owned one. If there were an Invisibility Cloak involved in the Longbottom Incident, it makes the most sense to assume that the Cloak in question was the one that we already know to exist in canon. And that one belonged to the Crouch family."

"So we're back to Barty Jr." agreed Elkins, looking considerably cheered.

"It makes a lot more sense than risking a Yellow Flag by inventing some Longbottom invisibility cloak out of thin air," said Eileen. "It also serves to answer yet another one of those canon mysteries: on what evidence was Barty Jr. convicted? There must have been something else to convict Barty Jr. on than the testimony of the other Death Eaters. No matter what Elkins says, I can't see Crouch Sr. allowing that. Any Death Eater could finger a family member and he'd cart them off to Azkaban? There must have been some other evidence that disposed him against his son. It couldn't have been the Longbottoms' testimony, because if it was, I doubt Dumbledore would have expressed doubt about Barty Jr's innocence.

"No," she concluded triumphantly. "I say it was finding his own invisibility cloak there in the wreckage of the living room. Here, pass me a poptart!"

"One toaster pastry for Sly Eileen," chuckled Elkins, passing her one. "Really, now, Eileen! You can't honestly imagine that I don't see exactly what you're up to here, can you? You just want to find a way to make Crouch Sr. keeping his son under that Invisibility Cloak for all those years some kind of twisted ironic punishment, rather than either a means of trying to break the lad's spirit, or proof that he couldn't even stand to look at that faulty mirror that was his son. Can't say that I blame you all that much. After all," she snickered. "It is rather an impediment to that 'Barty Sr. talked to his son' theory of yours, isn't it? That pesky yet irreproachably canonical detail of the worn-night-and-day Invisibility Cloak? Hmmmm?"

Eileen looked quickly away. "I don't know what you mean," she muttered.

"Uh-huh." Elkins leaned back in her chair. "Right. Oh, well, that's okay. I don't really need the Cloak, you know. I've got plenty of other canons to shoot down that theory of yours -- although maybe we should take that outside. No, I'm happy to go for The Invisibility Cloak Left Behind At The Scene Of The Crime."

"You are? Really?"

"Yeah, sure. Why not? Especially since it makes it even more necessary for Crouch Sr. to have needed to preside over that Kangaroo Court, and for precisely the usual reason. Same old same old. Same reason he's usually doing things. Self-protection. Self-preservation. Self-interest. Covering himself. Because really, if it was his cloak that was found at the scene of the crime, then who, aside from his son, would have been a prime suspect, do you think?"

"Elkins!" objected Eileen. "Crouch was well-respected and—"

"The crowd shook their fists at him during Bagman's trial."

"But why would Crouch have gone for one of his own Aurors?" asked Melody.

"Well," said Elkins thoughtfully. "Off-hand, I can think of about five marvellously slanderous and conspiratorial ways to explain why Crouch might have wanted to torture very popular Frank Longbottom and his wife into insanity. But it really doesn't matter, does it? I'm not saying that he really did. Only that if I can think of ways to spin it that way, then surely Crouch's political enemies could have done the same. And I think there were probably a good number of people who would have wanted to believe it."

"Yeah," sniffed Cindy. "Death Eaters."

"How about also people who had been falsely accused of being Death Eaters? And their families? And the families of those 'suspects' that his Aurors tortured or mind-controlled? And the families of his political enemies, those people he deemed 'supporters?' And the families of those people he sent off to Azkaban without benefit of trial? The families of all the people he disappeared while the war was going on? The families of the people who as far as we know are probably still there, rotting away in Azkaban, just like Sirius Black would be, if he hadn't escaped? Yeah, I think there were probably people out there who would have been up for a bit of come-uppance for old Crouch. I always read a bit of backlash in that Pensieve Crowd, myself. They're out for blood for the Longbottoms, but I also think they liked Crouch's son being involved. I dare say that some of them would have been even more pleased to see Crouch himself dragged off by those dementors. His son was just the next best thing.

"So," concluded Elkins. "It really was in his best interests to get his son convicted as quickly as possible, wasn't it? Even if it really wasn't the greatest evidence. Shoddy enough evidence for Dumbledore to have had his doubts. Cloaks can be stolen, after all."

"I thought you said that Crouch was pandering to the crowd at his son's trial," objected Eileen. "Whipping them into a hysteria to further his own political agenda."

"Well, I think that he was, although as it happened, he seriously misjudged the long-term benefits of that strategy. But he could also have been protecting himself by allowing hostility directed at him to be deflecting onto his son and his son's co-defendents, just as in the parallel scene with Winky at the QWC, he protects himself and his son by allowing attention to be deflected first onto the Trio and then onto Winky. The two motives are hardly mutually exclusive. And really, you know, it wasn't a bad strategy, even if it did backfire on him. Besides," Elkins added. "I like Barty Jr. leaving his father's Invisibility Cloak behind at the scene of the crime. It makes him just such a screw-up, and you know how I love it when people turn out to have screwed up big time, rather than actually having been all clever and getting things right all along."

"What you want has nothing to do with plausibility," Cindy reminded her, rather severely.

"No," agreed Elkins. "It doesn't. But actually, you know, I also think that screw-up scenarios are far more canonically plausible?"

She reached down absently to scratch Coney behind the ears.

"I mean, just look at what we've seen in the text to date, will you?" she said. "A brief survey of the canon: 'It's Snape, I tell ya! Snape!' 'Mother Love? Oops, I forgot!' 'It's Draco, I tell ya! Draco!' 'Oops, cat hair!' 'It's Hagrid, I tell ya! Hagrid!' 'Oh, I'd best not tell Dumbledore I've been hearing voices!' 'Phoenix Tears? Oops, forgot that one, too!' 'Hey, guys, I know! Let's make Peter our Secret Keeper!' 'Oops, forgot my Wolfsbane Potion!' 'Come on, Cedric: let's take the prize together.' 'Priori Incantatem? Oops, didn't think of that one.' 'My gosh, you mean that wasn't my old friend Alastor Moody, but instead an imposter?' 'Harry, there's something that I should have told you five years ago....'"

Elkins took a deep breath. "And that's just a sampling," she said. "There are just tons more. People mess up constantly in these books. They make stupid mistakes and terrible errors of judgment; they're doomed by bad timing and rotten luck and plain old human fallibility. It happens everywhere you look in these books. That's just the way things work in the Potterverse, it seems: best-laid schemes ganging a-gley all over the place!"

"'Ganging a-gley?'" Risti repeated dubiously.

"It actually ties in, to my mind, with the emphasis on House Gryffindor," said Elkins. "Rather than either Ravenclaw or Slytherin. Not wisdom but bravery. Not cunning but faith. Fortune in the Potterverse really doesn't seem to favor the prepared mind, does it? It's a more Vergilian sort of Fortune. It favors the brave. So overall, I actually do think that canonical plausibility weighs far more heavily towards scenarios in which people screw up royally than it does towards ones in which it turns out that they were actually being terribly clever and planning everything right from the very—"

She made a small choking noise and looked down at the rather massive sword that had just appeared, seemingly from nowhere, at her throat. Then up into Melody's rather steely blue gaze. Then back down at the blade.

"Um," she said.

At the table, Eileen had buried her head in one hand and was shaking her head slowly back and forth. Behind her, Risti was making suspicious snerking noises at the back of her throat. Cindy sighed.

"Elkins," she said patiently. "Where are you?"

"I'm, uh." Elkins swallowed hard. "I don't see quite what you... Mel? Mel, uh, look, don't—"

"You're in the Safe House, Elkins," explained Cindy. "You know, the place for conspiracy theories? And Agatha Christie style speculations? Ones in which people have planned everything out ahead of time and are actually being very clever?"

Elkins' lips moved soundlessly. It looked as if perhaps she had just said, "oops." She glanced back up at Melody again.

"I, er...forgot?" she said faintly.

There was an awkward silence.

"I'll just, uh, go out into the garden then, shall I?" asked Elkins. "And play with the bunny for a little while?"

Melody withdrew the sword an inch from her throat.

"That might be for the best," she said coldly.

Elkins nodded weakly and staggered to her feet. She reached down, scooped up Coney, and inched her way across the kitchen, throwing nervous glances repeatedly at Melody's Big Sword. At the door, she paused.

"Can I take some coffee and a poptart with me?" she asked, without much hope.

"NO!" screamed Melody.

"Okay, okay. Sheesh." Elkins shook her head. "Just one last question, though? About that Invisibility Cloak Left Behind At The Scene Of The Crime? Eileen?"

"Yeah?"

"If that evidence was ever a matter of public record, then why would Sirius tell the Trio that Crouch's son might 'just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time?' Why would he have emphasized Crouch's son being caught in the company of the others as the most damning evidence against him?"

"Well..." began Eileen.

"I can only think of one explanation that fits," said Elkins quietly. "Crouch suppressed the evidence."

"To protect his son?" asked Eileen, looking excited.

Elkins laughed and shook her head.

"Hardly," she said. "But oh, Eileen. I do like it sometimes when people screw up big time."

*************

Elkins

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