Deceived on every Side

Wednesday 30 July 1980 – Monday 31 August 1981

Hogwarts, the Grampians; Kincarden, Inverness-shire.

Rated PG-13 for unprofessional behaviour.

In the middle of the summer holidays, Ariadne received a frantic owl from Hestia.

My brother has disappeared while on assignment for the Order of the Phoenix. Professor D. sent him north to intercept a Death Eater rally. We know Caradoc arrived in Pitlochry because he sent his girlfriend an owl there. Do you know where that is, Ariadne? I can’t find it on the map. That was three days ago, and no one has seen him since. But there wasn’t a corpse or even a Dark Mark. Just nothing. Maybe he isn’t dead, or at least not from Death Eaters. We don’t give up hope that Caradoc will come home.

But Caradoc Dearborn never did come home. No body was ever discovered, but he became a statistic: “missing, presumed dead”.

* * * * * * *

Ariadne’s fourth year at Hogwarts was a never-ending nightmare.

On the first day of term, as the Gryffindors were waiting for the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher to arrive, Letitia Malfoy turned away from the History of Magic classroom opposite and sailed up to Hestia.

“So, Dearborn,” she said smugly, “did your brother find out the hard way what happens to Muggle-lovers?”

While Hestia fought off tears, and Ariadne tried to draw her away from the argument, Sarah confronted Letitia directly.

“You bitch! I would think your brother’s pretty high on the Order’s hit-list!”

“Call me that again and I shall cast a barking hex on you.”

Sarah raised her wand, but a baby-faced stranger was faster.

“You don’t warn your opponent,” she breathed, in the tone of one accepting a dinner invitation, while her wrist twitched the tiniest possible flick. And suddenly Letitia Malfoy was yapping like a pug.

Joe and Sarah doubled over with giggles, but Ariadne could see that Letitia was seriously humiliated. The newcomer kept her barking for about twenty seconds and then silenced her with a contemptuous flick of her wand.

“Do you see why I could not have hexed Golden-Hair like that?” she asked. Her voice curled around Ariadne’s ribs with a full, rounded resonance. “Silver-Hair had warned her, so she should have been prepared with a counter-hex. Surprise is the essence of strategy. I am Messalina Honeysmooch. Let us enter the classroom.”

In the full light, Ariadne saw that Professor Honeysmooch was wearing tight, low-cut robes (shouldn’t teachers be made to wear a uniform?) and she had amber curls to match her amber eyes. By the time she had been at Hogwarts a week, she had batted her eyelashes and fluttered her smiles at every male in the castle, from Dumbledore down to the youngest house-elf.

Professor Pavo hated her on sight. She brought out her own clingiest robes and brightest jewellery, and practised speaking in a low alluring voice to the bewildered first-years. Professor Honeysmooch responded by tilting her own tones to a melodious purr in front of an appreciative row of seventh-year boys.

“Cheap little flirt!” snapped Professor Pavo, apparently to Hazel Parkinson.

“The ridiculous old fool,” lilted Professor Honeysmooch, with the merest pretence that she might have been referring to the caretaker’s cat.

Veleta would have appreciated the joke that two such similar women could dislike each other so intensely. She would have understood that Pavo was vain and insecure and in need of a few kind words from her pupils (Richard and Ivor were sniggering behind their hands). Honeysmooch could afford to be generous since, in addition to being twenty years younger, she was good at what she was trying to do. But Honeysmooch was too cold and self-absorbed to treat her rival with anything but triumphant disdain, and Ariadne no longer had anybody with whom it seemed wise to share this thought.

Professor Honeysmooch was also a good teacher. She taught them Disarming and Protection spells, counter-curses and duelling tactics, and set them role-plays and exercises on the subject of ‘Know Thine Enemy’. “Find out your opponent’s weak spot and press it hard,” was one maxim. “Infiltrate enemy ranks and pass yourself off as a friend,” was another.

“I’d certainly like her as my enemy.” Richard grinned.

Ariadne stared at the floor.

“Don’t be silly, Ariadne,” said Sarah. “They’re boys. What do you expect?”

“Respect for women?” suggested Kingsley. “A woman who respects the weakness of men? Sarah, don’t run off by yourself; wherever you’re going, I’m walking with you.”

In fact, Kingsley didn’t have to escort his friends very far. That was the year when the teachers never left a class alone in the corridor because the students were in too much danger from one another. McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout and Slughorn escorted them with unfading cheerfulness, but Pavo and Honeysmooch complained every day about the “mollycoddling”.

“Do the other teachers really believe that your fellow-students will hex you?” enquired the Ancient Runes mistress, Professor Babbling.

“They’re not thinking, they’re knowing,” replied Regelinda Macnair. “Ariadne MacDougal was once called to the Headmaster’s office because she threw a Swelling Solution at me. And even Professor Honeysmooch is becoming afraid of Kingsley Shacklebolt’s memory charms.”

At four o’ clock every afternoon, the students were led crocodile-style to the library, and all the teachers remained with them for the next two hours. House-points were docked every time anybody spoke a word – one couldn’t even ask a friend to lend a quill. Nobody ever went behind a bookcase without some staff member on the trail, and Hagrid and Madam Hooch were spending more time indoors than out.

At six o’ clock, everybody went down to dinner, and nobody ever stood up from his own House table until a quarter to seven, when teachers escorted each table to its common room. They were locked inside the common room until eight o’ clock the next morning – when the journey to breakfast was once again strictly by escort only.

None of these precautions could stop the verbal taunts. The next major news story was about the valiant last stand of the Prewett brothers, whom Voldemort had never forgiven for some episode concerning a vampire. It took five Death Eaters to shoot down the two of them, and they were still throwing Stunners and Bodybinders as they fell to the ground.

“But in the end,” said Regelinda, “what hope is there for the goody-goodies who’re too cowardly to use Avada Kedavra?”

These days no child or sibling of a Death Eater bothered to deny the family’s allegiance; they were open and proud about enjoying the Dark Lord’s protection.

By contrast, relatives of Order members kept very quiet; it seemed that Dumbledore could not save his allies’ lives even when he knew exactly who was being targeted. Ariadne found that if she said as little as, “Lord Voldemort is evil,” the Death Eaters’ children pounced on it as evidence that her parents were Order members. At least she could truthfully say that her parents had no interest in that kind of thing. But she was not wishing to prolong these conversations; if the Dark side lost interest in her, they would start remembering that Sarah was a Muggle-born or that Joe had a brother in the Order.

The next great news story was that Death Eaters had wiped out a branch of the Bones family in a matter of minutes. Ariadne’s parents arrived at the gates of Hogwarts that evening, so terrified that they insisted she spend the weekend at home under their eye.

“For once,” said Professor McGonagall. “Make sure she finishes her homework.”

Ariadne spent the whole weekend in the kitchen, writing until her fingers bled and reading until her eyes were sore, because her parents did not allow her outdoors in the farmyard. It was the same the next week. She went home for five weekends in a row until Professor Dumbledore put his foot down.

“Can’t you see, Malcolm,” he said to Papa, “that Ariadne is safer at Hogwarts? It’s the one place where Voldemort has never penetrated. The Bones children died because they were too young for Hogwarts – they would certainly have been safe if we’d had them here.”

Her parents took the point, and Ariadne did not go home for Christmas that year.

* * * * * * *

Ariadne began to look forward to History of Magic lessons, because Professor Binns was the only teacher in the school who did not let the war affect his teaching. He droned on and on about peace conventions and centaur dissidence without a thought for anything that had happened since 1689.

Professor Trelawney, by contrast, was not interested in anything that happened earlier than next week. She was teaching them to read Tarot cards; every student in the class laid a different combination of cards onto the table, but Professor Trelawney was remarkably uniform in the message she extracted from each combination.

Death, my dears! Campion has the Wheel of Fortune in the Self position, the Ten of Swords in his Situation, and the Ten of Cups in his Destiny. That double Ten is most unlucky – it confirms the end of life as we know it! Alas, our fortunes are turning for the worse, for the cards say that the situation is just as bad as you fear, and those whom you love have no chance of safety! Miss Webster has the Knight of Wands, the Nine of Pentacles and the Six of Wands. That means swift action – many people – new purchases – victory – oh no! My dear, I hope your purchases are defensive artefacts, for your cards show a certain victory for Him-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. And Miss MacDougal is the Queen of Cups, with the Seven of Wands in her Situation and the Moon in her Destiny. What could be more disastrous? You are under attack – there are unexpected enemies lurking in the moonlight – hidden dangers everywhere – there is no escape from the need to fight, fight, fight… My dears, we are all at You-Know-Who’s mercy!”

Meanwhile, Professor McGonagall elaborated on the importance of being able to Transfigure any given object into a really solid, hex-proof brick wall. Professor Flitwick talked about Invisibility Cloaks and Shielding and Disarming Charms. Professor Honeysmooch put them through Stunners, Bodybinders, Icers and Burners until Ariadne wondered if she were trying to teach attack instead of defence. Professors Sprout and Slughorn talked endlessly of poisons, antidotes and wound-staunchers, while Professor Kettleburn completely forgot about caring for animals in favour of disarming and disempowering them. Professor Pavo became obsessed with battle strategy. If she mentioned the phases of the moon and the positions of the stars, she was certain to explain how this affected a defensive bulwark or a spy’s route through the enemy camp. Even Professor Babbling became nervous; all her poetry was centred around sharpening swords or raising invisible shields, and every new spell gave a fresh idea for befuddling an enemy’s wits.

Every Saturday morning, the students were escorted into the library and, with nearly every teacher in the school watching, there was nothing to do except finish every last scrap of homework.

“They don’t ask how teachers are supposed to find time to mark the homework,” grumbled Professor Pavo. But they must have found time, because Sarah, with nothing else to amuse her, was forced to complete her homework after all, and her marks had never been so high.

After lunch, the students were escorted back to their common rooms and locked in until dinner time. With all homework finished and trips outside forbidden, there was nothing to do but watch the rain and read the newspapers.

“I never thought I’d say this,” said Sarah, “but lessons are better than these vile endless weekends.”

Madam Hooch tried to maintain Quidditch. Each team was allowed one session on Saturday and one weekday evening to practise, and Madam Hooch escorted them and supervised them every minute. Nobody else was allowed to watch the practices, but watching the matches was compulsory. Each House had to sit in a separate corner of the stadium, but even this did not prevent fights. Rude songs were sung, objects were hurled at rival athletes and houses, and the athletes themselves committed so many fouls that the Slytherin team went through twenty-one different players in its three matches.

“Perhaps it’s time we banned Quidditch,” said Professor Sprout.

“Oh, that would make school impossibly dreary for the students,” said Professor Flitwick.

Hufflepuff trounced Gryffindor because Ivor’s sister was a new Chaser; she scored thirty-two goals and soared into a loop-the-loop above the goalposts after each one. Professor Slughorn responded by inviting her to his next party.

“He’s never taken any notice of her before,” said Ivor. “She complains he doesn’t even remember her name in class.”

Professor Slughorn certainly remembered her name thereafter. “Has there been any thought of providing you with your own broomstick, Miss Jones?” he said. “That old school Shooting Star really doesn’t do you justice.”

“Professor Sprout was thinking of a Comet Two-Sixty. That has a neat braking charm, but I don’t really see how it’s otherwise better than the Cleansweep Eight.”

“I could sell you my old Swiftstick.” This mischievous suggestion came from Claud Greengrass.

Gwenog Jones was not in the mood to take a joke. “If you tried that trick, I’d turn you into a woodlouse and set the broom on fire!”

“I’m sure our best flier in a decade would like some Dundee cake,” pacified Professor Slughorn. “You may know, Miss Jones, that Devlin Whitehorn is an old student of mine. I expect I could talk him into giving us a Nimbus Fifteen Hundred for your personal use.”

Ariadne poured a cup of tea for Gwenog, then sat down next to Claud Greengrass without really looking at his flawlessly chiselled face. Professor Slughorn is retiring at the end of this year, she reminded herself. I can afford to sit quietly at these daft parties for just a few more months.

* * * * * * *

At the next school Quidditch match, Ravenclaw beat Slytherin simply by virtue of cheating less. As Professor McGonagall escorted the Gryffindors back up to Gryffindor Tower, they heard the strains of Mendelssohn’s On Wings of Song floating out of a sixth-floor practice room.

“Someone’s playing the piano,” said Hestia. She spoke enviously, since it had proved too complicated for teachers to escort students to the practice rooms every day, so Hestia had had to abandon her music lessons. She stopped outside the door where the music was sounding most loudly.

“But who would have missed the match?” asked Sarah quickly.

“Perhaps it’s a charm to keep the piano playing when no one’s there,” suggested Ivor.

The same thoughts had apparently occurred to Professor McGonagall, for she waited until the song had swollen to its most augmented trill before pointing out, “If there’s an innocent explanation, then nobody will mind my investigating. Alohomora!

The door burst open to reveal – not only a piano that played itself – but Professor Honeysmooch locked in a passionate embrace with a flaxen-haired man. Ariadne averted her eyes instantly. No matter how badly anybody might be behaving, that degree of osculation still seemed a very private moment to be witnessing.

Professor McGonagall had no such scruples. She treated the errant adults as she might have treated two first-years who had skived out of the Quidditch match in order to lay a Trip Jinx on a classroom door. She stepped softly into the room and said, “That will be enough for now, Messalina. Perhaps the two of you would like to explain yourselves to Professor Dumbledore.”

With a mighty squelch, the lovers broke apart, and Ariadne dared to look up. Professor Honeysmooch had furious patches of pink on her high cheekbones. She was embarrassed and disconcerted, but she hid it under anger.

“Minerva, how dare you interrupt us?”

The man was the seraphically beautiful Claud Greengrass. He frowned insolently at Professor McGonagall as he returned his arm through Professor Honeysmooch’s slender waist. “Messalina, are you going to let a dried-up spinster dictate to us?”

“I’ll be speaking to the Headmaster as soon as these students are safely in their common room,” said Professor McGonagall. “It’s up to you whether he hears your side of the story before mine.” Then she walked out of the door and told the students, “Let’s mind our own business and keep moving upstairs.”

Of course the common room was buzzing with gossip and speculation for the rest of the afternoon. Ariadne tried to sit quietly with Blood Brothers: My Life amongst the Vampires to block out the memory of how Professor Honeysmooch and Claud Greengrass had exposed their private passions to the whole of Gryffindor, but the whole of Gryffindor was too fascinated by the subject to allow anybody to ignore it.

“I always knew Honeysmooch might have a boyfriend or two tucked away.”

“But a student!”

“He’s already eighteen, of course, and she’s only twenty-one.”

“But she was still marking his essays – how unprofessional do you call that?”

“They weren’t actually undressed.”

“But that was some seriously heavy snogging.”

“Greengrass never could leave the girls alone.”

“But a teacher!”

Dumbledore announced at dinner that night that Professor Honeysmooch had resigned. Claud Greengrass’s name was not mentioned, but of course everybody knew he had been expelled.

* * * * * * *

It took one week for the new Defence teacher to arrive. He turned out to be the apothecary from Slug and Jigger’s in Diagon Alley. His name was Arsenius Jigger, and the rumours that flew around the school indicated that he had accepted sanctuary at Hogwarts because Death Eaters had murdered his wife and daughter and blasted his shop to pieces. He was not particularly grateful to Dumbledore for this; he seemed to regard students as an unwelcome interruption to the real business of private research.

“I certainly wouldn’t go to him for help outside lessons,” said Kingsley Shacklebolt. “I think he’d cast an Engorgio on the spot, then yell at me for bursting.”

It was difficult enough to ask Professor Jigger for help even during class time, when, protested Ivor Jones, it was his job to answer. His teaching style was to pack as much information as possible into one lecture and leave the students to distinguish the central facts from the peripheral. Mistakes always made him angry; he was fond of cutting off questions with remarks like: “We covered that last Tuesday. You ought to understand by now!”

Hestia nearly sobbed when Jigger called her Confundus Hex “a bungling botch dredged up from the dustbin”; Joe had to clench his teeth together when he was told that he could betray an army with his clumsy wandwork; Sarah was actually given detention when Jigger called her a “fairy-brained dabbler” and she hurled back that he was a “manticore-faced bastard”; Richard only remained calm because he forgot that, in context, “triumph of logic-enhancement” was not a compliment. Ariadne was so astonished when Professor Jigger called her a “lumbering wand-hacker with the intelligence of a doxy” that she forgot to feel hurt.

“He’s a poisonous old goat.” The class had hardly reached the corridor before they were all saying it. “Remember Viridian from our first year? The main difference between him and Jigger is that Jigger bothered to learn some long words for his insults.”

But Ariadne knew that the main difference between Viridian and Jigger was that Jigger lacked malice. He might be cantankerous, but he was perfectly indifferent as to whether he succeeded in hurting anybody’s feelings. Ariadne was used to the honesty with which her classmates discussed their teachers, but she never knew what to say in such conversations.

“He has just lost his whole family,” she ventured.

“Come on, Ariadne,” objected Sarah. “Plenty of people suffer personal tragedies without retaliating against the whole world. Don’t you hate the old troll just a little?”

“What, you’re wanting me to think of a rude name to call him too?”

“Well, no,” Joe admitted. “We know you don’t do that. But do give some sign that you’re listening when the rest of us do it!”

“I was listening. I heard a great deal of anger over Professor Jigger’s attitudes, including one animal metaphor, one Being metaphor, two comments on his age, two about his morals and one on his intelligence… Will that do?”

* * * * * * *

A few weeks later, Hestia burst into tears and threw the Daily Prophet onto the common room carpet. Ariadne and Sarah automatically ran to Hestia, but Kingsley picked up the paper, glanced at the headline and said the rudest word they had ever heard him say. Ivor and Joe looked up from a game of chess.

“Have the Death Eaters conquered Gringotts?” asked Ivor.

“Or St Mungo’s? That would be worse,” said Joe.

Kingsley shook his head and handed the paper to Joe. The headline read, DEATH EATERS STRIKE DARTMOOR.

Aurors arrived too late yesterday to assist yet another Death Eater casualty. When they arrived at the isolated spot, three miles north-east of Twobridges, Devon, they found only scattered pieces of flesh underneath a huge Dark Mark, which the Aurors estimate had been made eight minutes earlier.

Auror Cassius Proudfoot, 44, says, “Picking up all the lumps of flesh was like piecing together a very unpleasant jigsaw. We didn’t find all of the bits, but we found pieces of heart and brain, as well as several fingers and a squashed eye. No doubt the poor chap was blown up into little pieces by a Body Blaster curse. I’d hope the Death Eaters Stunned him before they threw the Blaster, but knowing them, not likely.”

Expert Genetiwizards have identified the pieces as the remains of Mr Benjamin Fenwick, 22…

The newspaper slipped from Joe’s hands. He did not move from his chair, and nor did he speak.

In fact, he never spoke again. At first, they all thought he was only shocked for the weekend. On Monday morning, Richard was able to steer him into a seat in class. But Joe would not answer even the most direct question. As the weeks went by, the teachers soon learned not to ask him questions in class, and the students gave up inviting him to join their activities. It was a deep, dark, haunted silence from which Joe Fenwick never emerged. He continued to occupy chairs in the classroom or common room, but he never said another word.

* * * * * * *

Next, Voldemort tried to attack Hogwarts itself; they said he was coming for Dumbledore.

“Let him try!” said Professor Jigger. “Just let him, that’s all I say!”

Professor Jigger had placed a Hurling Hex on the boundaries of Hogwarts, and it threw Voldemort off – literally; he sailed for seven miles before he landed on a bare hillside somewhere in the Grampians.

“It’s almost funny,” said Richard.

“He just didn’t try hard enough,” said Kingsley. “Next week he’ll bring stronger spells to break the ancient Charms of Protection.”

“I’m ready for him,” said Jigger grimly.

On the first Saturday of that July, Hogsmeade Station stood empty. For the first summer in a hundred and fifty years, the Hogwarts Express was not running, for there was too much risk that Death Eaters would be sent to attack the students on their homeward journey. Instead, Dumbledore placed in the Entrance Hall a huge carton of what Sarah called “ordinary Muggle tennis balls”. The students lined up in the hall, baggage secured to one hand, while Filch ticked names off a list and Dumbledore converted each ball to a Portkey to each student’s home.

Ariadne landed dizzily in the Kincarden kitchen, almost tripping over her trunk, and not at all prepared for her mother’s tearful embrace.

“Darling, I was so worried that you’d never come home! It’s just not safe any more… You’re to bide at home all summer, and I’m not letting you out of my sight!”

Ariadne writhed inside, but she knew why Mamma was so frightened.

“At home” meant “inside the house”, for her parents had lost their earlier confidence that the Death Eaters would never venture as far north as Kincarden. Ariadne found herself excused from all chores, even from such short journeys as collecting the eggs or feeding the pigs, and shuttered away from the sunshine with nothing to do except play with Morag or read her school books. She wasn’t even allowed to owl her friends because her parents worried about the consequences of the most innocent messages being intercepted. The Floo charms had been re-set so that only members of the immediate family could Floo into the house, and everybody else – even the Macmillans, Malfoys and Macnairs – had to Apparate to the front door then chap like a Muggle. Every owl was subjected to anti-jinxing charms before anybody was allowed to touch a letter, and even the news that Ariadne was to be a prefect was only mildly cheering.

A/N. While a non-Seer only turns up an accurate Tarot reading at chance level, it is certain that Professor Vablatsky would have interpreted the students’ cards differently. Her readings would have been along the following lines.

Richard: “You are a lucky person who is unafraid of change and apt to improve the fortunes of those around you. While the present situation is just as bad as you fear, the worst of it is over. You are destined for permanent love and happiness.”

Sarah: “You are charismatic, sociable, fast-moving and somewhat selfish. You have been financially lucky, and your wallet now contains enough to buy whatever you want. You are destined for a long and exciting trip that will result in success and victory.”

Ariadne: “Your passions are hidden by your natural reserve. You are an intuitive and loving Healer who is destined to create a powerful and nurturing magic. You are currently under attack, but surrender would be dangerous; stand your ground, and you will succeed. However, things will not be what they seem, and you will make unexpected enemies.”

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