Deceits Laid Bare
Tuesday 1 September 1981 – Friday 29 October 1982
Hogwarts, the Grampians; Hogsmeade, the Grampians; Kincarden Croft, Inverness-shire.
Rated PG for adolescent concerns (exams, romantic attachments and questionable taste in music).
On the first evening of Ariadne’s fifth year, before the welcoming feast had even begun, a school owl brought her a note instructing her to go down to the dungeons at once to meet the new Potions master. As she knocked on Professor Slughorn’s door, she could hear that his office was already re-occupied. She entered and, to her very great surprise, came face to face with her Cousin Severus.
“Be seated,” he said abruptly. “I have replaced Horace Slughorn as Potions master at Hogwarts and Head of Slytherin House.”
She decided it would be tactless to express any surprise, for Severus was an expert at Potions. But she had always assumed that he would prefer to teach Defence.
“There are some things that you need to know. Miss MacDougal, do you understand the expression ‘dual relationship’?”
“It means having two kinds of relationship with the same person.”
“Precisely. And a dual relationship is a highly unprofessional manner of proceeding.” His hands twitched across the desk. “Miss MacDougal, you need to understand that for the next three years I am to be your teacher. Therefore, as of this evening, I am no longer your cousin.”
“I understand, Professor Snape.”
He nodded curtly. “In term time, no matter in any way relevant to the family is to be mentioned between us. If we should meet during your school holidays, no subject in any way relating to school business is to be discussed. Do you understand, Miss MacDougal?”
“I do, Professor Snape.”
“So much the better.” He paused. “Professor Slughorn’s records indicate that he was pleased with your work. I would have you remember, Miss MacDougal, that a history of high marks is no excuse for laziness. You will need to continue with your utmost concentration over the next ten months if you seriously wish for an Outstanding O.W.L.”
“I will, Professor Snape.”
She knew that Severus would not be popular with her classmates, but even she was startled by how quickly he established himself in their disfavour. As they entered their first Potions lesson, Sarah was asking, “Who is this Jugson person whom they arrested yesterday?”
“A hero,” interrupted Regelinda Macnair. “He purged the Muggle-borns from the Ministry of Magic, relieved the over-population of every major city, and would not deny his allegiance to the Dark Lord, even at the gates of Azkaban.”
“A common mass-murderer, then,” said Sarah. “Ivor, why did that Auror say – ?”
“All students will be silent,” Severus announced, not loudly, but with impeccable projection across the dungeon. “Matters unrelated to Potions are not to be discussed in my lessons.”
They listened to the beginning-of-term speech. But no sooner had the practical component begun than Regelinda hissed across her cauldron, “Webster, don’t bother with this potion – you’ll never live long enough to be needing to use it.”
“Deluded!” Sarah threw back through clenched teeth. “They arrested Jugson, and it’s only a matter of time before they catch his commander. You’ll see; no one really wants your precious Voldemort.”
Hazel Parkinson nearly had a fit at the sound of the Dark Lord’s name. But once again, Severus was faster.
“Detention, Miss Webster,” he said. “And this is your only warning, Miss Parkinson.”
Lord Voldemort’s doom arrived, quite suddenly, just two months later. There was no warning at all. Hallowe’en fell on a Saturday so wet and windy that nobody minded being cooped up in the castle all day. Ariadne wrote a Potions essay in the common room, trying to ignore Richard as he read out loud the Daily Prophet headlines about the murder of Dorcas Meadowes.
In the evening they were taken down for a very subdued feast in the Great Hall. The house-elves sent up pumpkin soup, turkey medallions, apple pie and gingerbread, and Hagrid had strung jack o’ lanterns across the enchanted ceiling. But the atmosphere was so muted that Ariadne could hear voices from three tables away.
Regelinda Macnair was happily repeating to Hazel Parkinson the good news about the Dark Lord’s personal visit to Miss Meadowes to “knock her out of the running properly”. A boy from the Ravenclaw table was threatening to stand up and challenge Regelinda, and Letitia Malfoy’s voice clearly sailed over the Hall. “No need to gloat, Regelinda! It won’t be long now before all the Dark Lord’s triumphs are public. Until then, why make enemies?”
Amid such an atmosphere, it was not surprising that there was no thought of playing party games. The desserts disappeared from the table only half finished, and the students were led back up chilly corridors to an early bedtime.
On Sunday morning there were several staff missing from breakfast – Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid – but students were used to the staff having business with the Order of the Phoenix. Professor Flitwick took charge, and although he announced that there was to be no playing with Snitches in corridors or taking books from the Restricted Section without written permission, he didn’t say a word about any teachers being ill or detained.
After breakfast they were herded back up to the common room; since it was raining and raining and raining outdoors, there was nowhere else to go anyway. Hestia tried to help Ariadne with a Vanishing Charm – it was alarming how she had not yet mastered it – and Joe scratched away at a very long History of Magic essay; Richard made a token effort at the lost cause of teaching Sarah to set a lunascope properly, while Ivor and Kingsley compared notes on Arithmancy. But for most of the time, they simply sat around Richard’s Wireless, listening to old Melliflua Nightingale recordings of wizarding battle songs. As the March of the Men of Harlech died away, a newsreader cut in.
“Reports are now confirmed that Death Eaters all over Britain are panicking because the whereabouts of Him-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named are unknown. Far from sheltering their leader, prominent Death Eaters are frantically searching for him. Leading Magical Theory experts are claiming that You-Know-Who has probably been defeated by a bounced curse. Aurors caution the wizarding public to await further evidence before trusting the rumours that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has been disembodied…”
“What was that?” asked Ivor.
“Are they seriously claiming that Voldy has gone away, and they can prove he didn’t just Disapparate to Mongolia?” asked Sarah.
They all rushed on the radio, but Melliflua Nightingale was singing again. Nobody did any more homework after that. There was news every half-hour, and the news grew.
“And we interrupt this programme once more to remind you that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has now vanished to whereabouts unknown. He went to Godric’s Hollow last night, where he personally killed James and Lily Potter; however, for reasons that are not yet understood, he failed to kill their infant son Harry. Well-known magical theorist Miranda Goshawk claims that the curse-traces in the Potters’ house indicate that You-Know-Who cannot have retained his magical powers…”
“Who were these Potter people?” asked Richard.
“Old pure-blood family – my parents knew them,” said Kingsley. “I think they worked for the Order. Well, I suppose they must have, if You-Know-Who killed them personally.”
“But what happened to Voldemort?” asked Ariadne.
“Are they saying that the war is over?” asked Hestia.
“‘Whereabouts unknown’ is not fully reassuring,” said Kingsley, then sneaked in with, “What do you think, Joe?”
Joe startled at the sound of his name, but shook his head and did not speak. The end of the war had not ended his private torments.
At dinner time, Professor Flitwick squeakily called the school to order and announced, with great excitement, that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was finally gone. Just gone, apparently defeated by a baby. Leading Death Eaters had admitted under Veritaserum that they could not locate their master. The reign of terror was over. Dragomira Macnair looked scornful, but Letitia Malfoy was distinctly thoughtful, while Hazel Parkinson burst into tears.
“This is the first time in history that anyone has survived the Killing Curse,” said Professor Flitwick. “We don’t know why, but He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has been destroyed by his own weapon. So stand up and raise your glasses – to the Boy Who Lived!”
Glasses were clinked so enthusiastically that several of them shattered (although Letitia Malfoy did not stand). Then the house-elves sent up prune-stuffed pork roast, black bean salad and spider cakes, and the feasting that had been restrained yesterday continued in earnest throughout the evening.
The next morning brought a flurry of owls from parents. Ivor and Hestia read notes of joyful congratulation out loud, but Letitia was frowning over whatever she had received from her eldest brother. Ariadne’s parents had written:
We could not be happier, but we hope you young people will not neglect your studies. There is less excuse than ever before for being distracted from your learning.
The MacDougals had evidently not considered what the attitude of the staff was likely to be. When the fifth-years arrived in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, Professor Jigger was behind his desk as usual, but he announced, “You need not bother with your books today. I’m never teaching another lesson in my life. Play hangman or something, but I am leaving Hogwarts this evening.” He glared ferociously at their astonished stares. “Do you think I’m teaching for fun? Teaching is dreary, and teachers tolerate it because Hogwarts is a safe place. But now that the outside world has become safe too, why do you think we’d bother with staying here?”
Four of the staff voluntarily ended their teaching careers that Monday.
“I don’t know how Dumbledore can hold the school together,” worried Kingsley. “There’s no one to teach Defence, Astronomy, Arithmancy or Muggle Studies. And no one wants to teach now that You-Know-Who has gone. Dumbledore will never fill all those positions in time for us to pass our O.W.L.s.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Letitia Malfoy threw herself at the line of Gryffindors emerging from Greenhouse Three. “Ariadne,” she said, “we must speak to you! Now!”
“Why should Ariadne want to speak to you?” asked Sarah.
“She sounds desperate,” said Hestia kindly.
She’s pretending, thought Ariadne. But out loud she said, “Say what you like, Letitia.”
Letitia beckoned with genuine desperation to Dragomira and Regelinda, who were hovering behind her with nowhere near the same level of eagerness. Hazel was there too, but Letitia took no notice of her – everybody knew that the Parkinsons had remained neutral during the war.
“Ariadne, I know I haven’t always been nice to you. I’m sorry, for example, about bullying your friend Wendy – poor little Wendy, it’s so terrible that she’s dead! – and I’m sorry about telling untrue tales on you to the teachers.” This was spoken with such rapid fire that not even Hestia still believed that Letitia was really sorry. “But there’s something you need to understand too, Ariadne. That evil man – the Dark Lord – has had our whole family under Imperius since – since before Father died. I’ve been blindly obeying his wicked instructions ever since I was a little girl.”
She stamped impatiently on Regelinda’s foot, and Regelinda remembered her lines. “Us too, Ariadne, the Macnairs too! You-Know-Who had Imperius on Father, and Father had it on the rest of us. We have not been able to control a single thing we’ve done for the last eight or nine years.”
“We were not intending any of the bad things we did,” intoned Dragomira, so flatly and dully that Ariadne wondered how Letitia had bribed her to say it.
Sarah raised her eyebrows. “Are you three saying you were under Imperius at school? And that none of the teachers noticed?”
“Oh, believe me, Miss Webster!” Letitia’s grey eyes were filling with the most realistic tears. “A truly Dark wizard doesn’t need to be present in person to keep the spell in power. You-Know-Who could make Imperius last a year, and he often had his victims remember a thousand commands at once. That’s the kind of terrible, terrible curse that we Malfoys were suffering all this time.”
Ariadne knew that Letitia was making it up, but there did not seem to be any point in gloating now that the war was won. She could not go to the extreme of saying, “Let’s be friends,” or, “I believe your apology,” so she compromised on, “Letitia, I will not be holding against you anything that you’ve done in the past.”
“You do trust me, don’t you, Ariadne?”
Letitia sounded so frightened that Ariadne had not the heart to admit that she did not. Instead she said, “I’m knowing you’re afraid for Lucius. And we’ll all be needing some time to adjust to the new political climate. But I’ve no spare time to make trouble for anybody.”
“Afraid!” The indignation escaped before Letitia had time to remember that she was supposed to be angling for Ariadne’s sympathy. She bit her lip, and changed her words to, “We’re cousins, Ariadne. Blood’s thicker than water… isn’t it?”
“I will not be looking for trouble,” Ariadne repeated.
Sarah waited until the Slytherins had gone before exploding. “How dared she? She perjured herself on Wendy’s life! Ariadne, why didn’t you just tell her she’s a shark who had better watch her own back now that her side’s lost the war?”
Suddenly Sarah’s anger seemed reasonable. Ariadne faltered. “You’re furious that I did not rub salt into her wounds?”
“Yes, I am! She’ll think we’re pushovers, and be bullying people again before Christmas!”
“I’m not so sure,” said Ariadne quietly. “She really is frightened. Her parents are dead, and her eldest brother will only survive if he can convince the Wizengamot of that Imperius story. She cannot afford to keep a string of enemies the way she used to.”
“Let’s not quarrel,” said Hestia quickly. “Let’s go and watch the Quidditch practice. We can do that now – teachers aren’t going to fuss any more about going outdoors unsupervised.”
Ariadne shifted her bag of books and savoured what had just happened. Letitia Malfoy had been so frightened that she had feigned regret and begged Ariadne to trust her! She had as good as pledged, on a cause as precious as saving her own skin, not to make any more trouble! The war was over. And they had survived.
Dear, we hope all these unfortunate disruptions to the teaching have not harmed your learning. They are most inconvenient, but we hope yet that you will be able to settle and produce the very best O.W.L. results. Pass on our regards to dear Severus.
Ariadne’s immediate reaction upon reading her mother’s letter was: What about the disruptions to our hearts?
Changes in the staffing did not really count as disruptions. Professor Vablatsky had resigned, Professor Slughorn had retired, and there had been a different Defence teacher every year; students were used to the idea that their teachers changed. The constant bad news in the media, deaths of classmates, threats from fellow-students, intrusive monitoring from teachers, endless stressful vigilance – those were the factors that had made it very difficult to remember that finishing homework and passing exams still mattered. Mamma and Papa had never really understood that; it was amazing that they suddenly believed that learning might fall apart due to a few replacements amongst the teachers.
There were not going to be any more disruptions to their hearts. There were no more murders on the news, no more teachers patrolling the corridors, no more hexes thrown across the Quidditch pitch. The rival factions had simmered right down, for nobody still admitted to having been associated with Voldemort. So Ariadne was concentrating on her learning better than she ever had before. There were long, long stretches of hours to practise the Charms that always faltered off her wand so clumsily, to memorise those details of Transfiguration theory that always seemed to filter out of her brain.
The new Astronomy teacher was good. Her name was Aurora Sinistra, and she was a quiet, mournful young widow, devoted to her muse and knowing it thoroughly. Indeed, her new job at Hogwarts seemed to be all that stood between her and despair, for, it was rumoured, Voldemort had destroyed everything and everybody else whom she had ever loved.
Ivor assured them that the new Arithmancy teacher was also good. Septima Vector was brisk, practical, sympathetic, and “she makes numbers look beautiful”. Hestia laughed out loud at the astonishment on Ariadne’s face and said, “It’s all right, Ivor is entitled to his personal tastes.”
The new Muggle Studies teacher was a Phoebus Penrose, who was very learned and kept talking about black holes and rhombi and bathroom tiles. Kingsley thought he was brilliant.
But it took months to find a new Defence teacher. It was the middle of January before the Ministry sent over a timid little employee named Gilbert Wimple, who reluctantly agreed to fill the post for the rest of the academic year, just until somebody better qualified could be found. He taught them a great deal of theory and history, but a real live spell never entered his classroom. Ariadne supposed it did not matter; the war was over now, and their previous Defence teachers had already taught them more practical manoeuvres than any decent person would ever want to use.
Ariadne had the shortest Careers Advice consultation that Professor McGonagall had ever held.
“What do you wish to become, Miss MacDougal?”
“There does not seem to be any problem there. You’ll need N.E.W.T.s in Potions and Herbology, of course, and I’d also recommend Astronomy. Do you know how long the apprenticeship is, Miss MacDougal?”
“Three years, Professor. And it is long hours on low pay.”
“Then I believe you will not need to think about anything other than your exams for the next two years.”
Ariadne did think about other things, of course. They never abandoned the habit of gathering around Richard’s Wireless in the evenings. Sometimes they regretted it: the gruesome story of how the Lestranges tortured the Longbottoms to insanity made them wonder how many closet Death Eaters would never be captured. But usually they were reassured to hear nothing more sinister than Bagnold’s latest legislation, the Muggle-relations successes, the high society divorces, the rare beast sightings, the professional Quidditch scores and the weather forecast.
School Quidditch was more civilised this year. When Ariadne’s cousin Steadfast Macmillan pioneered the Hufflepuff team to victory and the Quidditch Cup, students from every house ran onto the pitch to congratulate him. Perhaps Regelinda resented having to pretend, but Letitia hissed at her not to be a fool, so Regelinda cheered for the Badgers along with the rest.
Hogsmeade weekends were permitted again. Ariadne danced attendance on her friends, while they splurged on fudge and pepper imps in Honeydukes; then Sarah spent hours in Gladrags, draping uncut fabrics over herself and poring over robe-makers’ catalogues. Then Hestia would browse through the musical discs in Calypso’s, building up her collection of post-war music with bright new artists like Canola O’Shee, Orpheus Carroll and the Quodlibets. They would stock up on Sneakoscopes and Remembralls at Dervish and Banges before sighing and saying, “Ariadne wants books. As if Hogwarts didn’t have a library.” And they would traipse into Scrivenshaft’s to watch Ariadne waste her pocket money on mediaeval medicinal texts or Celtic mythologies.
Ariadne still found herself missing Veleta. Veleta had always understood the craving for books. She would have burrowed into the Muggle Cast-offs section and found more second-hand books than Ariadne could have read in a month – detective stories, romances, fantasies, travelogues, old-fashioned school stories – and they would have read them together for hours before Mr Scrivenhaft forced them into the agonising decision of how many they could afford to take back to Hogwarts.
Kingsley just wasn’t the same. He would steer Joe between the bookcases before browsing through thirty volumes and buying three or four; but he liked Muggle mechanics and military history and other subjects that had to be read with a very long face. Joe never touched the books, although he did read anything that Kingsley or Ariadne placed open in his arms. Sometimes they tried reading out loud to him, but they were never sure that he listened. Meanwhile, Hestia would be polite and feign interest, but Ariadne knew she was counting the minutes until Ivor came to rescue her. Sarah never feigned anything; she would sit on a chair and gloat over the contents of her Gladrags bag, fluttering her eyelashes towards the shop window, since there was always some boy due to meet her here and spirit her off to Madam Puddifoot’s.
Ariadne watched with great amusement as Sarah went through three boyfriends – all seventh-years – and Richard went through six girlfriends – all fourth-years – while Kingsley steadfastly resisted all attempts to acquire any girlfriend at all.
“Don’t you ever tell which boy you fancy, Ariadne?” asked Sarah. “I tell you everything – surely you must have had a crush on someone at some time!”
“Well, I suppose that retired singer was good-looking – was his name Stubby Boredom? But he probably was not an intelligent man.”
Sarah rolled her eyes and said, “We weren’t talking about intelligence. You fancy a man for his looks.”
A peal of laughter cut through their conversation. Ivor, so solemn himself, had yet again managed to amuse Hestia.
“On balance,” said Ariadne, “if I’m obliged to fancy somebody, I’m thinking I’d rather make friends with him first.”
But the O.W.L.s had to be sat – and were sat with surprisingly little stress. When Ariadne’s results arrived at Kincarden, she did not even open the envelope. Her father, overcome by curiosity, asserted his position as head of the household and held out his hand for the letter before she had finished untying it.
She knew her privacy had been invaded, but she also knew that this mattered more to her parents than it did to her. Her father was smiling widely. He passed the envelope to his wife before Ariadne had a chance to look.
“This is a pleasant, pleasant surprise,” he said. “Your Cousin Lucius – but never mind. You have done well, my dear.”
Ariadne could not look at her brother. Seven Outstandings! She knew just how badly her father would have liked to throw that in Lucius Malfoy’s face. But he never would, of course; even without Kenneth to consider, he would never annoy a Malfoy.
“I believe you could undertake six N.E.W.T.s, darling,” said her mother.
Ariadne remembered what McGonagall had said about the best apothecaries qualifying in Astronomy as well as Herbology and Potions. She recalled her father’s claim that no seriously skilled wizard lacked the N.E.W.T. in either Charms or Transfiguration. She considered how hard it would be to give up Ancient Runes just when it was all coming together so well in her mind. She looked at her mother’s happy confidence that Ariadne would prove to be the family scholar. She looked again at the O.W.L. result sheet, which assured her she had slipped down to Exceeds Expectations in only three subjects.
And she really believed she could manage six N.E.W.T.s.
So Ariadne returned to Hogwarts enrolled in six courses; she was overjoyed to see her friends again; and there was no sign that Lord Voldemort still existed. This was the situation when, late in October, her mother sent her this owl.
Your father and I have decided to host a little Hallowe’en party to celebrate the first year of peace. We are inviting about fifty of our closest friends and relations.
Janet was feeling unwell this morning; you maybe know she is pregnant again. I believe we cannot count on her to assist with the catering. So I have written to Professor McGonagall to ask if you can spend this weekend at home to help with the preparations and, of course, to join the party. You are, in any case, a far better cook than I am, my dear.
Pack a weekend bag as soon as you receive this, and your father will meet you in the Entrance Hall at four o’ clock on Friday. Bring your homework with you, for you will be needing to help out with only a few odd jobs here and there.
Give our regards to dear Severus if you see him. But do not go out of your way, for he will be with us at Hallowe’en.