Death Eaters Undeceiving

Saturday 1 July 1978 – Tuesday 17 April 1979

Kincarden Croft, Inverness-shire; Malfoy Manor and Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire; Hogwarts, the Grampians.

Rated PG-13 for references to the Dark Arts.

When Ariadne arrived home for the summer holidays, it took her less than a day to notice how school had changed her. Hogwarts people said exactly what they thought, and she had become comfortable with hearing it, even if she could not quite bring herself to do it. Kincarden people said what the situation required, even if this did not match what they were really thinking at all.

For the fourth summer running, Ariadne found herself dressed up as a bridesmaid (this time in a pale yellow silk robe that did not suit her at all) because Lucretia Malfoy was marrying an Irishman named Gordius Goyle. Ariadne knew as soon as she entered the bride’s dressing room that Cousin Lucretia did not love her bridegroom; she was happy enough to enter the married status, but she did not seem to care for Mr Goyle at all. The bridesmaids had hardly entered Salisbury Cathedral before Ariadne realised that Mr Goyle did not love Lucretia either, although he was looking very smug.

Cousin Severus was again among the guests, although he was not related to the Malfoys or the Goyles; Cousin Lucius slapped him on the shoulder (Severus winced) and plied him with more champagne, hoping he was enjoying himself. Ariadne wondered why they seemed so close, then remembered that they had both lied to her about not being Death Eaters. She was more certain than ever that they recognised each other because they were both serving Lord Voldemort.

“Lovely wedding,” sniffed Mamma to Cousin Lavinia.

“Beautiful flowers,” said Aunt Macmillan, with more accuracy, to Cousin Letitia.

Ariadne knew that there was a great deal happening at this wedding that could never, ever be discussed with any member of her family.

“My dear, are you not happy to be home for the holidays?” her father asked her when, a week later, he caught her curled up over a Defence text in the herb garden.

“Papa, I’m very glad to see you and Mamma again,” she replied, for this was the only part of the truth that her parents were wanting to hear. Mamma made so much effort not to be a Macnair, and Papa worked so hard to help Mamma forget her childhood, that Ariadne could not bear to hurt their feelings by telling them how much more freedom she enjoyed at school. She was indeed glad to spend two months of the year being whatever kind of daughter they wanted.

But on the first of September, her heart lightened at the thought of leaving her duties to Kincarden behind her. She felt she was returning to her real home at Hogwarts.

* * * * * * *

By the time Ariadne began her second year at Hogwarts, wizards generally agreed that the school was the only safe place in the British Isles. Only at Hogwarts could a child be safe from the hateful masked Death Eaters, the serpent-tongued skull with which they signed their violent acts, the whispers about Him-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and the corpses of those who defied or displeased him.

“I’m not feeling safe with that new Defence teacher,” Ariadne said to Veleta.

Professor Viridian had been replaced by a pale-faced, dark-eyed witch named Professor Tepes. She had no time for curses: her speciality was Dark Creatures. They studied banshees and Red Caps, hags and Hinkypunks, Kappas and Grindylows, Malaclaws and manticores. Richard Campion and David Berriman said the best lesson ever was when Professor Tepes brought in a live Occamy for a practical demonstration.

“No need to bait it,” said Joe Fenwick. “It’s probably only aggressive to people who attack its eggs.”

“Five points to Gryffindor, Fenwick,” yawned Professor Tepes languidly, “for bothering to read the chapter in advance of the lesson.”

Professor Tepes always spoke slowly, as if her own words bored her – it took Ariadne a while to realise that the information she gave them was actually very interesting. By the time they had been at school a month, Professor Tepes had dark rings under her eyes. Hestia said she was insomniac and ought to take sleeping draughts from Madam Pomfrey. She was obviously far less aggressive than any of the Dark Creatures in her showcase.

“Yet she’s dangerous,” was what Ariadne always concluded.

* * * * * * *

There was no protection for those who ventured outside of Hogwarts. That February Veleta clutched at Ariadne in the middle of an Astronomy Theory lesson.

“Merlin’s beard, they have David, I know they do!” Her chocolate-brown eyes were huge in a face as white as the blackboard chalk. Professor Pavo turned away from the diagram on the blackboard, swished at her sparkly skirts, and asked, “Are you quite well, Miss Vablatsky?”

“Professor, why isn’t David at school today?”

Professor Pavo glanced around the classroom, as if she had not noticed that David was missing. “I believe Berriman went home for the weekend. Professor McGonagall gave permission.” She made an extravagant gesture, designed to call attention to her jewelled sleeves. “That, however, gives him no excuse to stay away on a Monday morning.” She shook her head, which set her diamond-and-sapphire earrings swinging prettily.

Veleta looked so distraught that Professor Pavo stopped posing with her costume for just long enough to say, “Miss Vablatsky, you may go to the hospital wing and ask Madam Pomfrey for a mild sedative. Miss MacDougal may accompany you if she returns to class directly.”

Out in the corridor, Veleta was sobbing. “I was thinking about all of us in Gryffindor, and I Locospected the Dark Mark above David’s house.”

“So you’re frightened that David is…”

“I don’t fear, I know!” Veleta snapped hysterically. Instantly contrite, she murmured, “Sorry I shouted, Ariadne. But I looked inside. I saw him. He’s dead.”

“Are you wanting to go to Madam Pomfrey?”

“No, that wouldn’t help at all! I just want to get away from Peacock-Pavo for a while.” She clutched wildly at Ariadne’s arm. “I’ll go to Granny as soon as the bell rings, but I can’t go now as she’ll be teaching. Oh, I told you that one day I’d Locospect something I shouldn’t, and now I have! It was so horrible – David lying there – and his mother – his poor mother – the way she was howling…”

Ariadne managed to steer Veleta into the girls’ toilets. It was the disused toilet that was said to be haunted, but the taps over the basins still worked, so Ariadne was able to wet a handkerchief and help Veleta wipe up her bloated face.

“Do you think things are worse today than, say, five years ago?” asked Veleta suddenly. She was speaking more calmly now. “In the olden days, Death Eaters used to wait to catch people outdoors before they killed them, but now they are so powerful they just blast up whole houses, if the houses belong to Muggles. I don’t think the Ministry tries to stop them any more.”

Ariadne did not doubt that Veleta was accurate. There was nothing in the Daily Prophet about David’s murder – but David Berriman had been just a twelve-year-old Muggle-born, hardly front-page news in a time of war.

It was Professor Dumbledore who made sure that the whole school knew about the tragedy. He made them sit silently over dinner while he told the story, his grief and anger as fresh as if David were the first Hogwarts student ever to be slain. The Death Eaters had killed David’s father and sister, who had happened to be standing in their way, but they had spared his mother, because she had been standing at the back – she had not even been important enough to be worth killing. Ariadne detected a sneer from Letitia Malfoy, who was sitting directly in her line of view on the far side of the Great Hall, but nobody broke the silence before dinner ended.

Up in the Gryffindor common room, the second-years sat in a circle on two red sofas, and one of them was missing. Ariadne leaned sore-eyed against Veleta; Kingsley was grim-faced; Wendy sobbed on Sarah’s shoulder; Richard couldn’t stop fidgeting; Hestia held Ivor’s hand; Joe was ashen-white. Nagging at the back of Ariadne’s mind was the accusing thought: But I never took the trouble to get to know David. She had not really bothered with any of the boys; after the isolation of her childhood, it had been enough work to befriend four girls at once.

She watched the boys, determined from now on to remember how they were all quite different from each other. Joe Fenwick was easy-going, the clown who made the others laugh despite the daftness of his jokes. Richard Campion initiated the major pranks, but his humour had a competitive edge. Kingsley Shacklebolt, the natural leader, was more serious. And Ivor Jones, who never said much in a crowd, could rattle like a Jarvey if you caught him on a subject like numbers or money. Quiet little David had just blended in with the group, and it disturbed her that she could not remember much about him; it was as if his life somehow had not mattered. She would never let that happen again.

* * * * * * *

During the Easter holidays, Veleta sprang to her feet in the library, and hissed to Ariadne, “We must go! The Slytherins have Wendy! Oh, it’s horrible – ”

Ariadne pushed away her chair. “What are they doing?”

Veleta pulled her towards the door. “They stopped her in the library corridor and they’ve dragged her off to one of those unused classrooms – Merlin’s beard, your cousin Linus has stolen Croaker!”

They flung themselves into the corridor, ignoring Madam Pince’s sharp reminders not to run in the library, and soon they heard shrill screams from the last room on their right.

Ariadne shoved at the door; it was locked, but it opened to Veleta’s Alohomora. Five Slytherin students were spread over the empty room, playing what looked like some kind of ball game, while Wendy, unable to restrain her squeals, was dodging from one to another.

“Catch, Wendy!” called Hazel Parkinson. But the object she threw sailed right over Wendy’s head – something red dripped onto Wendy’s hair – and the missive was caught by Letitia Malfoy.

The object was not a ball. It was Croaker the toad.

Veleta leapt into the fray and tried to catch. She was taller than Wendy, but not as tall as Dragomira Macnair, who caught Croaker from Letitia and waved him high above her head.

Ariadne tried desperately to remember the charm for attracting objects. “Adverto! Accerso! Confero…!” What was it her brother used on the straying sheep?

“You’re wanting a Summoning Charm,” said Dragomira coldly. Everybody stopped moving. “But you cannot manage one, of course, because that’s fourth-year work.”

“Ten points from Gryffindor for using magic in the corridors,” said Linus Malfoy, pompously tapping his Prefect badge. “You two couldn’t have entered without using magic.”

“Meanwhile, about this amphibian.” Dragomira held Croaker aloft by one leg; he was bleeding, and his other leg looked broken. Veleta made another grab for him, but Linus knocked her away, while Dragomira whirled Croaker in a circle in the air, and he gave a soft and painful croak. Ariadne put her arms around Wendy, who was sobbing shamelessly, while Dragomira pressed the toad between her two hands, squeezing him not quite tightly enough to crush him. “The McKinnons are blood traitors,” said Dragomira, “who have openly defied the Dark Lord when they ought to be defending everything that is purest in wizarding civilisation. Wendy McKinnon, if you’re wanting to keep your sister alive, you’ll go to your dormitory and fetch down those cats.”

Dragomira’s frenzied half-smile as she enjoyed the toad’s misery betrayed that giving her the cats would not spare Croaker; but if she were allowed to do something unspeakable to Hestia’s cats, she would lose interest in Wendy’s sister.

“No cats,” gasped Wendy between sobs.

“Of course there are cats. We know the red-faced half-blood up in Gryffindor Tower keeps two of them, although the school rules only allow one. And we’re needing a cat.”

“Use your own cat!” snapped Veleta.

“Shut up, Vablatsky,” said Regelinda Macnair. “Your freak grandmother keeps you safe as long as you’re silent, but give us a reason to ask our friends to eliminate you, and Granny will be powerless to stop us. The same for the lemon-headed Mudblood – we’ll eliminate her soon, but any time will do for that. Today we’re interested in the traitors: McKinnon’s sister, who has sold out to the Muggles, and Dearborn’s brother, who persecutes his pure-blood kin.”

Veleta stared, and Wendy froze in terror while Ariadne forced away her ghastly mental images of tortured animals. Pretending to co-operate seemed to be the only strategy.

“We’re needing a cat,” repeated Dragomira. “The spell requires a tortoise-shell pelt, removed live. McKinnon, you will fetch us a tortoise-shell cat. Linus will give you ten minutes by his watch, after which we pull the legs off this toad. Remember, one word to the teachers about any of this – and your sister meets the Dark Mark.”

Linus pressed a button on his watch.

The Gryffindors fled up the corridor. Wendy could not stop sobbing. “I have to sacrifice Croaker to save Bast! Then they’ll set the Death Eaters onto our families anyway!”

“Let’s rescue Croaker first,” said Ariadne, starting on the downwards staircase. “Quickly, McGonagall’s office.”

“No,” said Veleta desperately. “McGonagall’s out – all teachers in Hogsmeade – ” She explained rapidly that the only adults remaining on the school grounds were Madam Pince, who would not leave the library, and Hagrid, whom they would never reach and bring back before their ten minutes were up.

“Hospital wing, then,” said Ariadne, flying down the stairs. The blood was rushing to her head so painfully that she could not think straight, but she was knowing – knowing – there had to be something… What had Mamma always told her…?

The hospital wing stock room was strictly forbidden to everybody who was not Madam Pomfrey, but this was no time to worry about rules. Veleta opened it with another Alohomora, and Ariadne snatched at a pair of identical bottles and handed one to Wendy.

“Aim the solution at Croaker,” she said breathlessly, sweeping a third bottle into her pocket. “Veleta, you mew like a cat as we’re arriving. We’re not wanting to let on too soon that we have not brought Bast.”

They arrived back at the fourth-floor classroom at nine and a half minutes. Veleta almost forgot to mew, but Linus Malfoy opened the door a crack and said, “Oh, no, McKinnon, not your little friends. Just you and the cat. Otherwise we tear up the toad.”

Dragomira flaunted the twitching toad high above her head while Hazel eagerly held out her hands for Bast. Ariadne pulled Veleta back from the door so that Linus would open it, knowing they would only have one chance at this, and uncorked her bottle.

She threw it hard at Croaker.

Dragomira screamed and dropped the toad. Wendy had thrown her bottle on cue, and both bottles smashed to the ground, splattering Regelinda and Hazel before splashing all over Dragomira and – and Croaker. Ariadne knew that it was Croaker, but it was not surprising that nobody else recognised him, for in a fraction of a second he had swollen to five times his natural size. By the time he hit the floor, he was dragging a broken leg the size of an adult wizard’s, and his amber eyes had ballooned to the size of Quaffles.

The Swelling Solution had expanded Dragomira’s hands to the size of melons, and the ripping of her school robes suggested that her legs and were now like tree-trunks and her abdomen like a dustbin. When she made the mistake of wiping her cheek, it bulged out like a Bludger. Regelinda and Hazel were staggering on feet the size of cauldrons, and Letitia, who had tried to shield her eyes from the splash, found she had wiped them up to the size of apples.

Linus threw a furious Crures Flaccidae, and Ariadne felt herself crumple to the ground as if her legs were jelly. But the Slytherins were discomposed for long enough to allow Croaker to hobble over to Wendy and squeeze himself out through the door only a second before he became too gigantic to fit. Wendy kissed him and sobbed over him, while the swollen Slytherin girls, recognising that their predicament required professional help, stamped furiously past them and stormed off down the corridor.

Linus Malfoy, whom the Swelling Solution had not splashed, announced, “You have put yourself in trouble, Ariadne MacDougal. You are a pure-blood with whom we had no quarrel. But you couldn’t mind your own business, and now we shall have to deal with you.”

Then he stalked off after his friends.

As soon as he was out of earshot, Ariadne pulled out the bottle from her pocket and passed it to Wendy. “Antidote,” she said. “He’s needing to drink it.”

Wendy dripped the Deflating Draught onto Croaker’s serpentine tongue, and in about two seconds he had reduced to his natural size.

“We can’t stay here,” said Veleta. “The Slytherins will be back as soon as they realise that Madam Pomfrey is out. We’d better go to the library and keep near Madam Pince.” She cast a Finite Incantatem on whatever Linus had done to Ariadne while Wendy scooped up the rapidly-shrinking Croaker, and they soberly made their way to the last safe place in the castle.

* * * * * * *

As soon as Veleta announced that the teachers had returned from Hogsmeade, they took Croaker down to the hospital wing, where Madam Pomfrey mended his bones, staunched his bleeding and warned Wendy to keep him quiet and cosseted for several days. Ariadne confessed to her theft and paid for what she had taken, and Madam Pomfrey immediately placed her stock room under a stronger Locking Charm that could be broken only by the touch of her own wand.

Professor Slughorn, who regarded the school holidays as private time to pursue his own research, grumbled a little about brewing up fresh Deflating Draught to reduce the Slytherins to their usual size, until he realised who had stolen the Swelling Solution.

“Little rogues!” He winked at Ariadne and Veleta. “A very clever strategy in your mischief, young ladies. But next time, put your creativity to some more constructive purpose!”

By the time the brew was boiled, the Slytherins had had time to agree on their story, and they accused Ariadne of starting the fight. But when Professor McGonagall demanded explanations, all Ariadne would say was, “There is a threat against the life of Marlene McKinnon. I will not discuss anything else until somebody takes that seriously.”

Astonished, Professor McGonagall took her to see Professor Dumbledore. After Ariadne made him understand that the Macnairs and the Malfoys knew that Marlene McKinnon was a member of the Order of the Phoenix and that they were making guesses about Caradoc Dearborn too, Dumbledore took no interest in anything else until he had spoken into his fireplace twice and sent seven owls. Then he called in the Slytherins, who all denied that they had been bullying Wendy.

Ariadne ignored the denials and asked, “Linus, why did you take away house points?”

“Because I heard Vablatsky use a charm in the corridor… I did, Ariadne; she cast Alohomora.”

“She did. She cast it because you had locked the door and you had Wendy trapped inside with you.”

After this devious piece of tattling, Dumbledore very quickly decided that Wendy’s version of the story was the true one. He informed the Slytherins that their treatment of Croaker indicated that they were unfit to care for animals, so all their pets were permanently sent home – Linus’s eagle owl, Letitia’s black cat, Dragomira’s nest of rats, Regelinda’s adder and Hazel’s three puffskeins. Linus lost his Prefect’s badge, and all five of them were given a week of detentions. The younger lasses only had to do slimy jobs for Professor Slughorn, but Linus and Dragomira were sent to accompany Professor Kettleburn on some very distasteful errands in the Forbidden Forest. As for the suggestion that they had planned to use a cat in the Dark Arts –

At this point, Hazel Parkinson sulkily complained that Hestia Dearborn owned two cats and this was against the rules.

Dumbledore replied that for such defiance, Miss Dearborn should certainly be punished by forfeiting the right to bring any pet to school; she must without delay donate one cat to Miss Vablatsky and the other to Miss MacDougal.

But as for the suspicion of Dark practices, to say nothing of the fact that Ariadne and Veleta had felt the need to steal and use Swelling Solution… It was clear to Dumbledore that the real problem was inadequate supervision. The next morning at breakfast, he stood up to decree that no member of the school community was to visit Hogsmeade again until the war was over. Instead, he set up rosters for every weekend to ensure that there were always teachers patrolling every area of the school where students were allowed to go (he reduced the number of these).

“What, no more drinks in the Hog’s Head after a hard day’s work?” hurled an infuriated Filch, before Dumbledore had finished speaking.

“How am I supposed to buy my supplies?” huffed Professor Tepes at every lesson for the first week of summer term, as if she had never heard of owls.

“I do think you went a little too far, Miss MacDougal,” complained Professor Pavo, who had heard Regelinda Macnair’s version of the story. She ran her ruby-manicured fingers through her exquisitely piled curls. “Do you really think this fair? For the sake of some other person’s crime, all teachers are kept away from Gladrags until July!”

Professor Pavo’s troubles did not end there, for she and Professor Slughorn were also required to make a thorough inspection of the Slytherin common room and dormitories. After they had confiscated three Dark Arts spell books, five poisonous candles, two voodoo face masks, a biting snuffbox full of ripped-off fingernails, eight decanters full of three different kinds of Love Potion, a suspicious-looking opal necklace, a Hand of Glory, an unregistered time-turner and seventeen Auto-Answer Quills, the Slytherins were fuming.

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