He was a questionable father who made even more questionable choices, but was Barty Crouch Sr really a bad person?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Percy Weasley may have been in awe of his boss, but he was one of the few who still held the Head of the Department of International Magical Co-operation in high regard. Once the toast of the Ministry, a ‘great wizard’ who was tipped to be next Minister for Magic, Barty Crouch is a grim-faced old man stuck in a mundane job by the time we meet him in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

It’s clear that Crouch was a victim of his own ambition, obsessed with his reputation and quickly rising through the ranks at the Ministry to become the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, always looking ahead to his next promotion. During the first war, he took on the role of judge in the Council of Magical Law, condemning and convicting those accused of Dark Magic and becoming known as a ruthless purveyor of justice.

Barty Crouch Snr at the first task
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Sirius describes Crouch as being ‘as ruthless and cruel as many on the Dark side’, authorising increasingly harsh measures to try and bring Voldemort down. While he may have become power-hungry in his position, he had the same goal as Dumbledore, Harry and many others: ridding the world of Voldemort and his supporters at any cost.

His career seemed to consume him, resulting in a lot of hours at the office and barely any time with his family. It can be argued that his ambition was not a bad thing: he was doing all he could to provide for his wife and young son after all, ensuring that their family name held influence, status and power.

Sadly, it was his lack of a relationship with his namesake son that triggered his downfall. Being so distant, he didn’t see who his son truly was; he spent so much time convicting criminals, he didn’t realise his own son was one of them. By the time it became apparent that Barty Jr was in league with the Death Eaters, there was only one option open to him: treat his son the way he would any other Dark wizard and send him to Azkaban.

Barty Crouch Jr head shot
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Barty Jr was given a trial, but while he begged for forgiveness, his father publicly disowned him, much to the horror of his wife. At this point, whatever he had done, he couldn’t win. If he was lenient with the boy, he would be accused of nepotism at best and of being a Voldemort sympathiser at worst. Coming down on him so harshly made him seem cold and cruel, even though he was doing what he thought was right. From then on, his name was tainted.

Demoted at the Ministry and the focus of unending gossip, he retreated into the background and any chance of his becoming Minister vanished. He had made such an error of judgment in neglecting his family, and when his frail, sick wife begged him to put her in her son’s place, it’s only natural that he would put his family first this time. He went ahead with the plan, even though it meant breaking the law and concealing the son he had disowned.

When he realised he’d made a terrible mistake, Barty Jr was back in league with his cronies who ‘rescued’ him and made his father their prisoner. Poor Barty Sr was only trying to keep a promise to his wife to make up for everything he had put her through. But even then, he desperately broke free to try and tell Dumbledore what he had done, knowing that he would have to face the consequences for his actions. He knew it was the right thing to do. Of course, he never got the chance and was murdered by his son in the guise of Professor Moody.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Bartemius Crouch Senior was not a bad man. He might have been cold, and ruthless in his ambition and passionate about his beliefs, but he didn’t set out to destroy his family or break the law. He tried to do what he thought was right whenever he was faced with a difficult choice; the only thing he’s truly guilty of is making bad decisions.

Each month Pottermore will try to defend the more… questionable characters from the Harry Potter stories. Why not read more of our 'In Defence Of...' series?