Rita Skeeter was referred to as a journalist in polite company, and as a muckraker, yellow journalist, too-nosy-for-her-own-good-scarlet-woman in impolite company, and 'That Bitch' privately. As in, 'How did That Bitch discover my secrets?!' It was something Rita was quite proud of, actually. Only Dumbledore, Voldemort and Harry Potter had more titles bandied about than her, and she hadn't even killed anyone!
Quite the accomplishment, really.
And it was her dedication to maintain her titles that led Rita 'That Bitch' Skeeter to Platform 9¾ at the end of Harry Potter's second year at Hogwarts. There had been several interesting rumors coming out of the celebrated magical school, hurried whispers about some sort of danger lurking in the halls and attacking children. Dumbledore had even been suspended! A golden opportunity, except for the fact that no one knew precisely what was going on. It was fertile ground for some digging and planting the seeds of disingenuous rumors, that would spring up into fat, glorious fruit ripe for the picking.
There was also a murmur that Lucius Malfoy had stormed into Hogwarts in a right tizzy, and had left looking particularly rumpled and harried not an hour later. Rita was hoping to catch his blond Lordship when he came to pick up his runt from the train, and she'd been so eager to catch him that she'd skipped lunch.
It was too good an opportunity, too juicy a rumor; with the potential for a thick, meaty story to rise up like the scent from the chip shop just outside King's Crossing!
I should've gotten lunch, she decided, mentally slapping herself as the crimson Hogwarts Express rolled to a stop in the station, steam billowing into the air from its tall smokestack. Her dark green eyes glittered with excitement as she spied the high-quality robes and silky blond hair of the Malfoy Lord, his expression one of a man who'd stepped in a particularly smelly shite.
Her strides long and confident, her ruby-red heels clicking on the stone, Rita strode up to Lucius Malfoy, straightening her lemon-yellow jacket and pushing her horn-rimmed glasses up her nose. "Why, Lord Malfoy!" She greeted him loudly, drawing his attention and everyone else's in a five-meter radius. "What a surprise to see you here!"
He squinted at her, looking quite constipated. "Ah, Rita," he sneered, brushing his glorious golden locks over his shoulder. "What is so surprising about me wanting to retrieve my son?" 'You stupid bint,' went unsaid.
She waved him off with a screechy cackle, "Oh, that's not what I meant! I was simply surprised to see you here…without Lady Malfoy. Perhaps you're not just looking to 'pick up' your fine young man, Lucius?" Rita fluttered her eyelashes at him, standing in such a way that it drew the eye to the square inch of cleavage she had on display.
It made her chuckle inside to see his barely-concealed face of disgust. "No, Ms. Skeeter, I am simply here to retrieve my progeny. What do you want?" He asked with loathing bare in his voice.
"Oh fine," Rite giggled, whipping out a roll of parchment and her trusty Quik-Quotes quill. "Would you care to comment on the recent mysterious events at Hogwarts? The suspension of Albus Dumbledore, or the Arrest of Rubeus Hagrid?"
Malfoy stiffened almost imperceptibly. "Those matters are quite confidential, I assure you, Ms. Skeeter," he sneered grandly, "I'm afraid someone of your station is unsuited to hearing about them."
"Oh, so Minister Fudge is involved, is he?" She asked with mock surprise as her quill scribbled away.
Lucius narrowed his eyes on her before turning to his approaching son. "Draco," he greeted stiffly. "Come along. The stench in this place is quite galling."
Sensing her story slipping away, Rita made a wide grab. "Wait! Can you comment on the events that took place last week, when you visited Hogwarts and then left in hurry?" She blurted.
The blond Lord slowly turned an acid glare on her, his lip curling in an angry snarl. "I couldn't possibly comment Ms. Skeeter, and you should know better than to nose in my business," he nearly growled, seizing Draco by the arm and marching to the apparition point.
"You'd think I'd learn," she murmured, rolling her eyes. There goes two hours of my life, she grumped, stuffing her materials in her bag and making to leave. Before she could, a chorus of voices rose up from the platform. Ugh, Weasleys.
Through the gaggle of lanky red-heads and their plump mother, Rita spied something that instantly drew her attention. Through the forest of freckled limbs there stood a small boy, with a buck-toothed bushy-haired brunette by his side, speaking very quickly if she saw right. He was raven-haired and pale-skinned, his small frame dwarfed by his baggy, colorless clothes. His eyes were a bright green and emphasised by the round glasses perched on his nose, and she could spot the end of a jagged scar on his forehead.
Harry Potter. The Boy-Who-Lived.
He was a lot shorter than Rita expected. Shorter, even, than the girl standing next to him. Something about him made it hard for her to look away, but she didn't know what. Maybe it was because he looked a year younger than twelve? Or the fact that the last son of the Potters looked like a pauper? Or the way his eyes went wide when the girl hugged him, and he minutely flinched?
Rita's reporter-senses were tingling. A story, many stories even, hung around that boy like a shroud of light and she was a moth. Unconsciously, she found herself walking after him, flitting in and out of the crowd as she followed the flock of freckled red-heads. She palmed her wand and flicked a quick notice-me-not charm around herself as she stepped through the barrier into the Muggle world.
She watched from a distance as the Weasleys traded good-byes with the Boy-Who-Lived and the bushy girl and hurried away, the muggleborn girl sliding into a sensible sedan a scant minute later. Harry Potter stood on the curb alone except for his white owl, looking quite miserable.
It was the perfect time to act.
As she walked towards the boy, hidden by the charm, Rita's womanly form shrunk and formed into that of a large but rather plain, if exquisitely-patterned beetle, in her completely unbiased opinion. With a quick flutter of her wings, Rita hid herself in one of the multiple folds of cloth of Harry's shirt, finding it to be a rather comfortable, if temporary, nest. She only had to wait for a few minutes before the screeching of tires heralded the arrival of another vehicle.
Not daring to peek out from her hiding place, Rita only heard the following conversation. "What are you waiting for, boy? Get in the car!" For some reason, the voice brought to mind a hippo, and the heavy footfalls and loud breathing only added to it.
"Yes, Uncle Vernon," came the voice of the Boy-Who-Lived, his tone dull and nearly lifeless. If she was capable of it, Rita would've frowned. Something about his voice and the way her nest subtly shifted made it seem like Harry Potter was downtrodden. But that couldn't have been right. No way Dumbledore, sparer of Grindelwald, would leave his protege in anything less than a stellar home.
But then again, Rita had seen behind the Headmaster's shining persona before. All it did was increase her curiosity. She clung on as Harry got in the car, or SUV given the sound of the engine, and made herself comfortable for the trip.
"When we get home, your unnatural rubbish is going in the cupboard, do you hear me?" The fat muggle growled, and she imagined him shaking a meaty fist for emphasis. "And don't think I've forgotten about your little 'lie-by-omission', either, boy. That stick of yours is going in there as well!"
While that threat was interesting and concerning, the 'lie-by-omission' thing was what really got Rita's attention. It appeared the last Potter wasn't as Gryffindor as he was gold-colored! What she knew of the Boy-Who-Lived seemed to be wrong, and that opened many new and exciting doors. If she could get Harry Potter on her side…
But she was certainly getting ahead of herself. There was more to learn before a decision could be made.
"I need my books for summer work, Uncle," Harry said quietly. "I could be kicked out if those assignments aren't completed. And my kind like to erase memories."
Rita heard a muffled snort of outrage. "F-Fine! Only the books and paper, nothing else! And you will only do them at night!"
She got the feeling that, behind whatever mask Potter donned, he was smirking on the inside. And so was she. "Of course, Uncle."
It was mostly silent after that, except for the angry mutterings of the large muggle and the occasional honk. She stiffened as a faint field of magic passed over her, her senses in beetle form tripled. Whatever ward had passed over her, it was either very weak, or didn't consider her a threat.
The car came to a stop a second later, and Rita hung on as they began to move again. There was a series of clunks as a trunk was dragged across cement and an annoyed squawk from a roughly-handled owl, then the click of a key in a lock. The fat muggle grumbled under his breath as he unlocked the cupboard under the stairs and shoved Harry's trunk inside, watching warily as the raven-haired boy retrieved a pair of leather-bound tomes before slamming the door and locking it. Then, he waved Harry upstairs and stomped off to the kitchen, where a younger male began to whine.
Harry rolled his eyes and carefully carried Hedwig to his room, quickly letting her out of her cage. "Back in prison," he mumbled, stroking her head and letting her nibble on his finger. "You get some freedom at least, Hedwig. Wish I could hop on my broom and fly out of here."
He sighed, sitting at his rickety, piece-meal desk and began to scratch out a pair of letters that he tied to his owl's leg and sent off. Rita took the chance to escape from his clothes and sequestered herself in a half-open drawer full of scraps of paper. Making herself comfortable, she settled in to wait and observe. It wasn't her first stakeout, and a beetle had a much smaller stomach than a human, obviously. And a less demanding palate.
It was the middle of the night, and besides watching a twelve-year-old read a book and sneaking a few scraps of bread off his plate, nothing much had happened. A soft rustle woke her from her doze and she peeked out of the drawer to see Harry quietly opening his door. With a low buzz, Rita took flight and latched onto the back of his shirt as he crept down the stairs with admirable stealth and knelt in front of the cupboard under the stairs, withdrawing a slightly bent bobby pin from his pocket.
She watched as he picked the lock and pulled the door open, opening his trunk and withdrawing his wand and a few odds and ends. Mostly candy and a few inkpots, but she spotted the silvery sheen of an invisibility cloak tucked under crumpled robes.
Harry Potter just got more and more interesting.
He paused, casting a solemn look at the interior of the cupboard and making a sound of surprise. Reaching down, he grabbed a small, battered tin soldier and held up. "I thought I lost this," he whispered, smiling as he tucked it away and locked the cupboard.
Rita rode his back up the stairs and into his room, fluttering off back to the drawer. Harry stiffened, glancing around furtively. After a few seconds, he closed his door securely and popped a loose floorboard underneath his bed, storing his nicked goods away.
The intrepid reporter smiled to herself as she settled into a nest made of paper. Who knew what juicy stories tomorrow would bring?
A week passed, and in that time Rita had learned much about Harry Potter and the family he lived with. They were called the Dursley's, and apparently the Aunt was Lily Potter's sister. Not that one could tell by looking at her. Where Lily had been full-figured and fiery, Petunia Dursley was rail-thin and contemptuous. And also rather bitchy.
The older, fat muggle was Vernon Dursley, Petunia's husband and a giant asshole, in her entirely professional opinion. Seemingly devoted to normalcy, to the point of being a bit obsessive and dare she say, freakish.
And the youngest fat muggle was Dudley Dursley, the result of a radical attempt to crossbreed a pig and whale, with some human thrown in as an afterthought.
She had learned that they were abusive, if not physically, then definitely emotionally. And no twelve year old wizard should be that small.
Not only that, but Harry Potter, the bloody Boy-Who-Lived, had slept and several times had been locked inside the cupboard under the stairs for the first ten years of his life, and was also bullied and ostracized by his cousin and his gang of friends.
It really was a prison, and it surprised Rita. Dumbledore projected an image of grandfatherly benevolence, but if his adoring public found about this…he would be ruined, or at least set on the road to it. It was perfect.
But it could be better.
In her observations, Rita had noticed that, although Harry definitely looked up to Albus Dumbledore, he was also frustrated with the man and rightly so. Learning the facts of his life had infuriated Rita, something that had taken her by surprise. She was so used to not caring about anyone that the instinct to curse the Dursley's into slugs had nearly overwhelmed her.
But, then again, she too had been bullied and stepped on all her childhood as well, and she could sympathize. It just took learning about it first hand to bring those feelings back.
And with what she knew about Dumbledore and Harry, she knew there was an opportunity to drive a wedge between them. And she was going to act on it tonight.
One thing that had made her rub her hands together in glee was that Harry Potter…was sneaky. Not just by being quiet or occasionally picking the cupboard lock or nicking extra food in the dead of night, but by the way he would subtly manipulate his relatives. All he had to do was imply something magical would happen; not even a bad thing, and they would jump in fear and do what he wanted. Harry used it to get a few more freedoms, but given how he should've had them in the first place, it was more like balancing the scales.
And if there was something Rita could appreciate, it was sneakiness. Or being Slytherin, as the idiots called it. As if Slytherins were the only ones who could be duplicitous. Right. Like arseholes didn't exist outside of one house.
She waited until it was the dead of night, crawling out of her nest and taking flight, shifting back to human mid-air and landing with a silent step. To the half-asleep Harry on his bed, it seemed as if a garishly-clothed woman appeared out of thin air. He scrambled for his wand hidden under his pillow, opening his mouth to shout when she nearly dived on him, pinning his arm down with a hand while the other clamped his lips shut.
"Shh, I'm not going to hurt you!" she hissed, realizing that holding him down in that position was pretty threatening, "Stop struggling, I'm a friend!" And it wasn't like he could struggle away, she was an adult and an experienced witch, he was a scrawny, short-arse pre-teen. Emerald green eyes narrowed at her, and Rita felt his tongue poke out of his lips and lick her hand. "That doesn't work on me, I'm an adult."
He glared at her, mumbling something into her hand. It sounded vaguely like, 'why should I trust you?'
Rita rolled her eyes. "Kid, I've been watching you for a week, I could've hurt you at any time."
His eyes went wide and he slapped at the hand over his mouth. "That was you?!" Harry whisper-shouted, and she pressed a finger to her lips.
"Ssh! You want your uncle to bull in here?" She brandished her wand and felt him tense. "Look, I'm just going to cast a silencing charm, that's all." With a pair of quick flicks, a muted tingle ran over their skin. "There, all good."
"Who are you?" Harry demanded immediately, his eyes flicking to the window. "How'd you get in here? How'd you appear like that? What-"
"Steady on!" Rita threw up a hand to stop him. "One at a time, please. And it's only polite to offer a lady a seat, you know."
He glared at her. "If you've been here a week, you'd know that," he pointed at the three-legged chair by his rickety desk, "Is the only seat."
She eyed it distastefully. "Right," with a flick of her wand, the chair was transfigured into a plush leather armchair, which she flopped on with a happy sigh. She saw Harry looking at it in amazement and a bit of envy, glancing at the window in surprise. Deciding a little comfort would go a long way to making him open up, Rita flicked her wand again, the lumpy mattress underneath him transforming into a bed just as soft as the ones at Hogwarts.
He pushed on it gently, as if trying to determine that it was, in fact, real. Seeing that it was, Harry nodded to himself and fixed his eyes on the brightly-clothed woman, but not before looking at the window again. "Who are you?"
Rita grinned widely. "I am Rita Skeeter, intrepid reporter and deflater of egos! You read the Daily Prophet?" Harry shook his head. "Oh. Well, I write up the dirty secrets of the Wizarding World in columns for them and get paid rather handsomely. It's poetic justice, really."
"So, you're like a Private Investigator?" he offered slowly.
She thought for a second. "...Kinda. As for I how got in here, I hid myself in your shirt at King's Crossing, and as for how I did that…" Her form melted, writhing and becoming that of a beetle. Harry gaped at her, and she chirped at him in amusement. She took her human form, feeling smug at having shocked him like that.
"…Wicked," he breathed, before thinking. "You're like McGonagall, then?"
Rita grinned again. "Yup!" She said, popping the 'p' cheerfully. "It's called being an Animagus. Very difficult, but dead useful. No one besides you knows that I can do that, so let's keep that our little secret, okay?"
Harry pinked at the wink she sent him, but cleared his throat and focused. "Why have you been watching me, though?" He glanced at his small room filled with second-hand everything. "I'm not the most interesting person."
She held up a finger. "That's where I beg to differ, dear Harry." Her smile became almost predatory. "See, you're the most interesting person I've seen in a long time. Not just because you're the Boy-Who-Lived, but because you're not."
"What does that mean?" Harry didn't if he should be insulted or not. On one hand, it was a pretty stupid title, and on the other…he did survive Voldemort attacking him as a baby. And the last two years.
"You don't know it, but you have quite a reputation, Mr. Potter," Her eyes gleamed as she sat back and tented her fingers. "A child, not even out of diapers, somehow survives an unsurvivable curse and destroys a Dark Lord in the process, then vanishes into thin air. It leaves quite a gap for all sorts of theories and rumours to spring up like weeds; if you don't catch them quick and tear them up by the root, they'll overtake everything. For instance, it's well known that you grew up in a magical castle that was basically Hogwarts but shinier and were taught advanced, forgotten magic by Merlin himself."
He gave her a flat look, then sent pointed glances at his room. "Obviously not," The sarcasm was thick enough to cut with a butter knife.
Rita rolled her eyes. "Yes, obvious to me and anyone with half a brain, but as a wise man once said, never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. You never gave an interview or a press release, and never answered any of the letter people sent you, so most think you're some kind of aloof, sloppily-dressed prodigy of some sort." She held up a hand to forestall the incoming rant. "Again, obvious to anyone with some sense. Which isn't a lot of people, mind you."
"How would I give an interview? I'm twelve!" Harry protested, crossing his arms grumpily. "And I don't even know what a press release is. And the only letter I got before Hogwarts was the Hogwarts letter."
The nosy bitch hummed thoughtfully, tapping her chin with a long, acid-green nail. "Interesting…" She shook her head and refocused, giving him a slightly predatory grin. "As for the rest, well, that's where I come in. After all, I am Rita Skeeter, intrepid reporter. I can help you with the interview and press release. Though, given your age, I doubt the second will be necessary."
Bright green eyes narrowed on her as Harry sat up, his gaze piercing. "What would you get out of this?" He asked softly. "Why do you want to help me?"
Her face softened, her smile becoming kind. "Believe it or not, you and I are a lot alike. I've watched how you act, how sneaky you are…and I know what it's like to be stepped on, to hide inside of yourself and try to be beneath notice. To reflect what others want to see and bury what's real." Rita sighed quietly, reaching up and removing her glasses. The color of her bright blonde hair began to fade until it was closer to brown; her jaw became a little less square, her cheeks a little more round, and her red lips became their natural pink.
Harry blinked slowly, trying to wrap his mind around the fact that she knew so much of what he hid, and the significance of the gesture. She wants me to trust her, that much is obvious, but to what end, and why? He thought back. Besides Hermione, Ron, most of the Weasleys, Hagrid and sometimes Professor Dumbledore, I don't really have any friends. Actually, only Hermione, Ron, the Twins and Hagrid are really my friends. Would it hurt to have one more?
"What was that?" He asked, waving at her rather tacky, gem-set horned glasses, his eyes flicking to the window once more.
Rita glanced at the view of empty night sky, wondering what was attention-grabbing about the slightly-fogged glass panes. "This is my face, my true face," she replied, "and, until now, the only other person who knows what I actually look like was me. A few cosmetic charms tied to the stones in my glasses and boom, everyone sees Rita Skeeter, acid-quilled muckraker. Without them, though, I'm just Rita, nobody in particular. Like a reverse Clark Kent."
Harry tilted his head quizzically, wondering who she was referencing. "Why?"
"Well, now you know something about me that no one else does, just like me," Rita shrugged, setting her glasses on his desk and rubbing her eyes, "And I see something in you, that reminds me of myself. If the Wizarding World and all it's ass-backward thinking doesn't try to stamp it out of you, you would, eventually. I want to help you become all that you can be," she said with as much honesty as she could muster. "And yes, helping you would help me, but that's simply a bonus."
"So…you want to be my friend?" he offered tentatively.
"Friend, mentor, confidant or just someone you trust, yes," she agreed with a nod, "I can help you, and I'm not asking for your soul or money or the like. I don't want to see another unique person ground down by the world we live in."
Harry stared at her in silence, his emerald eyes almost seeming to pierce right through her. To Rita's surprise, it actually made her shift uncomfortably—and she'd stared down known Death Eaters!
"Alright," he finally said, breaking the tense atmosphere. "What are we going to do?"
Rita smiled, feeling herself fully relax at his acceptance, cautious as it was. "Well, first, we're going to sleep, because it's about two o'clock in the morning. But, first thing tomorrow, I'll deal with your…relatives, and then we're going to Diagon Alley. There's something we need to do to get you started." She stated with a wink.
"Okay, but what?" he asked, glancing at his room. "And where am I going to sleep? My bed isn't that big."
A quiet chuckle bubbled out of her mouth. "Why, you little Casanova, we just met and you're already trying to get me into your bed?" At his mortified look, she had to bite her hand to muffle her laughter. "I'm going to sleep on this chair; I've certainly slept in worse places before. And as for tomorrow, well, that's a surprise, but I will tell you this: there are some things Gringotts can do that no one knows about." She tapped her nose and smirked.
"Oh," he said, pulling the thick quilt that was once his ratty blanket over his thin frame. Cocooned comfortably, with his luminous green eyes peering at her, he very much resembled a young owl with messy hair. "Goodnight, Ms. Skeeter," he said softly.
She smiled softly, pulling her yellow jacket off and transfiguring it into a warm fleece blanket with a silent swish of her wand. Harry noted with some amusement that it had a beetle on a leaf pattern, though his eyes once more flickered to the window. "Call me Rita, Harry," she admonished softly. "And what is so damn enthralling about the window?"
Harry blushed slightly. "Oh, well, uh, last year a house elf cast a Hover Charm on my Aunt's pudding, and I got a warning from the Ministry."
Rita tapped her chin thoughtfully, withdrawing a small leather-bound notebook and jotting down 'House elves can mimic Magical Signatures? Investigate further.' "Well, I would say he mimicked your Magical Signature, and since the Trace on your wand is attuned to it, it registered as you casting it." She shrugged. "I'll look into that some more later. Goodnight, Harry."
He hummed quietly, rolling over under his blankets and facing the wall, falling asleep quickly. Rita made herself comfortable and lay back, closing her eyes only to open them a second later as Harry's Snowy Owl, Hedwig, fluttered through the gap in the window and alighted on her stand. She glared down at the reporter with startlingly intelligent amber eyes, as if accusing her of something.
"I'm not going to hurt him," she said quietly, reaching hand out to the owl, "I really do want to help him."
Hedwig tilted her head, gazing at her curiously, before lightly nibbling Rita's fingers. With that done, she tucked her head under a wing and fell asleep, and the human followed soon after.
The next morning began with a scream. More a screech of surprise really, but that was Petunia's normal tone of voice, don't judge.
She'd been awake for two hours, preparing breakfast for the men in her life, although with gritted teeth. They'd gotten so used to the boy making their meals that when he'd left for his…school it took her a while to get back into the flow of things; and while she found the activity somewhat relaxing, she liked being served more. Not at dinner, though; the satisfaction on the faces of her loving husband and darling child when she put dinner on the table were reserved for her and her alone.
But, being that it was summer, she expected the boy to at least pick up some of the slack! If not with the meals, then general housekeeping; but it was nearly ten and he still hadn't risen. Clapping flour from her hands and sliding the last golden griddle cake onto a platter loaded to bear, the long-necked woman brushed down her apron and marched up the stairs with purpose in her steps and vinegar in her veins.
Raising a bony fist, she debated on whether she should just throw the door open and catch the boy while he was asleep, give him a good scare. That would fix his attitude!
With her decision made, Petunia gripped the doorknob and through the door open, a screech on her lips that turned to one of surprise as her eyes took in the suddenly very-expensive bed, a similar red leather armchair, and the figure of a woman sleeping in said chair. She had light brown hair in soft curls that spread out behind her head, her mouth open as she snored.
"WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS THIS?!" In any other situation, the way Harry and Rita and bolted up would've been comical, and it still kind of was. Petunia drew in another breath and opened her mouth to shout, only to find herself going stiff and toppling over like a statue, her eyes being the only thing free to move.
"PETUNIA!" Vernon shouted, nearly crashing through his bedroom door and charging down the hall like a pale rhino with a mustache and a weight problem. A wild-eyed Rita stepped into the hallway and spotted him, letting loose a surprisingly girly squeal, reflexively tagging the large muggle with a Stunner and skipping back out of the way. With his momentum built but not supported, the unconscious Vernon hit the carpet with a thump, sliding on top of it until he hit his wife's petrified form with a hollow thunk.
Rita, her hair messy and eyes wide, wand held in front of her like a sword, stepped out next to the two muggles and poked them with her shoe. Satisfied that they were taken care of, she loosed a kick into Vernon's side. "You bloody fucking arseholes! Whose bright idea was it to scream at the top of their lungs to wake someone up, you shite-eared cock-gobblers?! Don't you know? Never wake a sleeping witch, ESPECIALLY by SCREAMING at them!"
Breathing heavily, she wiped her forehead and tried to calm herself down, only for the door behind her to creak open and a sleepy Dudley to emerge, rubbing his eyes. "Mum, Dad? What's going-?" he hit the ground a second later as the red-lit spell impacted his face.
"I! DO NOT! LIKE! BEING SURPRISED!" she shrieked hysterically. Panting, Rita leaned against the wall and tried to calm her racing heart. Harry peered out of his room, looking from his petrified aunt to his Stunned uncle and cousin, to the sheepish Rita, who was rapidly flushing with embarrassment.
Instead of shouting, Harry simply glanced at his relatives again and chuckled quietly. "Wicked," he murmured, poking Vernon's head with a toe. "What spell was that?"
"It's the Stunning spell, knocks the target unconscious if it hits," She explained, feeling her pulse settle into something approaching a normal rhythm. "It lasts a couple of hours, or until someone hits them with an Ennervate, the Reviving Spell. I think you'd learn about them third or fourth year, the curriculum might've changed."
"Huh," Harry said, glancing up at her searchingly. "You know more of these kind of spells?"
Rita grinned proudly. "Oh, I know a damned depth of hexes, jinxes and curses. And I will, of course, teach them all to you. Along with one specific field that, if I bothered to try, I could get a Mastery in," She waved, flicked and swished her wand like a conductor's baton, transfiguring the Dursley family into a trio of ordinary black beetles, then conjuring a glass environment and a stick inside. "Transfiguration!"
"Wow," the last Potter enthused quietly, poking the fat beetle that had once been his cousin. "I think Uncle has got to go to work, soon. It might be suspicious if he doesn't show."
She sighed, levitating Vernon-beetle out of the cage and canceling the transfiguration, drawing lines in the air over his unconscious figure, light sparkles drifting down atop him. "Confounding and Compulsion Spells, so he won't be such a twat, or tell anyone about all the magic." She hit him with a white beam and Vernon sluggishly got to his feet, groaning and rubbing his face.
"Oh blimey, what hit me?" He muttered, before looking down at his watch. "Egads, I'm going to be late for work! Excuse me Harry, I've got to be going." That said, he walked passed them and headed down the stairs, muttering to himself.
Harry gave Rita a curious look. "Do you smell something tasty?"
The intrepid reporter sniffed the air. "Ooh, yes I do. What say we get some breakfast before we head out for the day? Your Aunt and Cousin will be fine for the day, right?" She stretched and yawned, trotting downstairs.
Vernon passed them with a pair of pancakes in his mouth, giving a muffled apology as he pulled on his coat and hat and grabbed his keys, exiting the house quietly. Harry stared after him, the politeness from his typically abrasive Uncle beyond weird.
They entered the kitchen to find a nice spread on the table, with coffee, orange juice and milk sitting next to jam and syrup, with the center of the table being a large platter loaded with pancakes, still slightly steaming. "Jesus Tapdancing Christ," Rita gasped, "Who the hell is she trying to feed, the fucking SAS?"
It was a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. "She usually makes this much. Well, I did, for the most part. You'd be surprised at how much Dudley could hoover up, I think he's almost the weight of a small whale, now," Harry replied with a shrug, plating pancakes for both of them and taking a seat.
Rita's eyes ran over his thin frame with a frown. "Bet you only got scraps of that, huh?" she asked sardonically, stuffing a bite in her mouth.
Harry only shrugged and tucked in, finishing off three cakes before taking his plate up. "So, you said we'd start by going to Gringotts, but how are we going to get there?" He waved a hand at the front door. "Uncle Vernon took the car and I don't know where the keys are for the other one. Also, I can't drive. Can you?"
She bobbled her head noncommittally. "Sort of, but not very well. But don't worry, we won't be driving to Diagon Alley, we'll be catching a ride." She smirked mischievously before glancing down at the remaining crumbs of breakfast. "Actually, we should wait until the food's settled before catching it. It can get a little…bumpy. You should grab whatever money you've got in your trunk and your vault key, you'll need it."
"Okay," Harry nodded, drawing his trusty bobby pin and picking the lock on the cupboard in a few seconds. "I've got ten Galleons, forty-something Sickles and twenty Knuts. Mrs. Weasley still has my key, though."
Rita stiffened. "What?" she asked lowly.
The last Potter looked at her in surprise. "What? I trust the Weasleys, they've been good to me," he said defensively.
The frequent interloper clapped a hand to her face with a loud groan. "Harry…you never just 'let' someone hold on to your Vault Key! Any funds withdrawn from your Vault with your Key would register as if you'd done it yourself! You pretty much gave them carte blanche to legally steal from you!" she explained, "And not to mention that would give them access to the Potter Family Vault and whatever heirlooms are in there!"
Harry paled, but his expression didn't change. "I trust them," he stated resolutely, crossing his arms, "They wouldn't do something like that."
Rita gave him an exasperated look, throwing up her hands. "Fine! Believe what you want, but you'll see when we get to Gringotts and get you a new key. It's a good thing you told me about this now, before the Goblins found out. They'd fine your ears off for that." She quickly went back upstairs, canceling the spell on her blanket/jacket, then charming it to look like a plain red robe and pulled it on, doing the same to the rest of her clothes and glasses. Without her charmed glasses and her and her usual hairstyle, no one would connect her to Rita Skeeter.
That was because wizards rarely, if ever, questioned what they saw on the surface. The ones who did were usually Muggleborn or became Unspeakables. Usually both. They fit in a lot better there, all hooded and shadowy and silent.
Rita looked down at the beetles slowly crawling around on the stick, a grimace on her face. With a long suffering sigh, she canceled her spells and petrified both muggles before they could speak. "I should leave you in the terrarium. You're the type muggles Voldemort built his forces on, abusing a hero of the Wizarding World and a child, no less! Still, I'm not him or his ilk, so I won't curse you, just Confound and Compel you to not be such massive dicks," She conducted a series of charms as she described before lifting the petrification.
Petunia looked around with glazed eyes, rubbing her face. "Oh, my word! I must look quite a sight! I'm sorry, dear, for this morning, but you took me by surprise. I'll just kip down to the kitchen and clean up, shall I? I feel the need for a strong cuppa." She gasped upon catching sight of Dudley. "Dudley! Go get dressed at once, young man! It's far too late in the morning to be wearing pyjamas, and I believe you have summer work to do. I'll get started on a nice, healthy breakfast for you."
"Okay, Mum," Dudley muttered dully marching to his room like a zombie.
Rita snickered at her handiwork. "Harry and I are going to pop down to Diagon Alley in a bit," she tested.
"Have a wonderful time, dear! Do you need any money for a cab fare? I know my purse is around here somewhere…" Petunia fussed as she searched her room for her purse.
"No, Mrs. Dursley, we'll be fine," Rita smiled, her eyes lidded. "I did see some very unhealthy food in your kitchen, though."
The thin woman gasped theatrically. "My word, you're right! I don't know what I was thinking, buying such rubbish. I need to do some cleaning, dear, if you'll excuse me." She scurried off in a hurry, leaving the reporter to chuckle darkly. An unfortunate side-effect of Compulsion charms were that the target felt good following orders, so by the time it faded, they still felt it. It would take quite a few days for it to permanently set, but when they did, the Dursley's would be the very model of an English family. Perfectly normal.
She would've felt bad for basically brainwashing them if they hadn't been massive pricks in the first place. As it was, she saw it as karma.
Rita walked down the steps as Harry emerged from the kitchen looking massively confused. It was a cute look, she decided, hiding a giggle behind her hand, which actually surprised her. Rita Skeeter rarely, if ever, giggled for real, typically giving a screechy cackle. It felt good to actually mean it. "What's with that face, Harry?"
He vaguely pointed over his shoulder at the kitchen door. "Aunt…Petunia…" Harry scratched at the back of his neck, nonplussed. "She fussed over me…said she was going to buy me some clothes today. It was…extremely weird."
Her face went blank. "That's how she should've been treating you from the beginning," she muttered darkly, eyeing his clothes critically. "And we do need you to get some appropriate clothes, a few plain robes if nothing else. Until then, a quick transfiguration will have to do." With that said, Rita spelled his clothes into plain black robes and stepped out with her wand in hand.
"Have a good day, dears!" Petunia called from the kitchen, making the reporter grin and Harry get another odd look on his face.
They walked to curb and Rita grasped his shoulder, pointing her wand at the sky with her right hand. "What are you doing?" Harry asked cautiously, keeping his eyes out for nosy neighbors.
"Calling our ride," she replied with a knowing smirk. He opened his mouth the again ask what it was, or if she was crazy, but a loud crack and a purple double-decker bus appearing out of nowhere made him choke. Written along the sides in flowing silver script was The Knight Bus. "This, is the Knight Bus, Harry," Rita announced grandly as the doors slid open and pimply-faced teenager bounced out.
"We'come to the Knight Bus, providin' 'mergency transportashun fo' the strandid witch or wiz'rd," he proclaimed with a thick accent that neither could place, and which gave the author fits for having to spell out his horrendous elocution, "It's eleven sickles per p'rson, firteen if you wan' hot choc'late."
Rita flicked a Galleon at him, followed by five sickles. "We're going to Diagon Alley," she said, leading Harry up the steps and taking the first open seats she saw, though there were quite a few. Very rarely did anyone ride the Knight Bus more often than they really, really had to. Rita just happened to be one who enjoyed it very much, thanks to pleasant experiences on muggle Roller Coasters.
"Yo'r forf in line," the pimply teen replied, tearing off a pair of tickets and handing it to them.
The reporter nodded and gripped a handrail tightly, turning to a confused Harry with a smile. "You should grab onto to something," she chuckled lightly.
"Wait, why-?" Was all he managed before the bus shot forward with a bang and he threw his arms around the closest thing. That being Rita. He hugged himself to her tightly, gritting his teeth under the forces pushing down on him, his subconscious noting that she was pleasantly soft and comfortable to squeeze.
That part was ignored for a mixture of adrenaline at going really goddamn fast and fear for suddenly going really goddamn fast. Harry could hear (and feel, again with his arms wrapped around her warm, soft body) Rita chuckling and whooping quietly in enjoyment, and debated on whether or not he should hex her after the ride was over, before realizing he only knew a few schoolyard jinxes.
On her end, Rita found it to be nice, being held tightly, even if it was mostly out surprise and reflex. Without her usual eye-catching features and clothing, she was free to laugh and have fun from the speed and at Harry's expense. Rita Skeeter wouldn't have been caught dead laughing out loud, unless it was to draw attention, pretend she agreed with whatever an idiot thought was clever or make someone uncomfortable.
She liked it. It was freeing.
The bus screeched to a stop and the pimply teen hopped up the spiral stairs to retrieve a passenger, while Harry dizzily disengaged from Rita, blushing furiously. "Sorry…" He muttered, looking away and rubbing his neck.
"Sorry for what?" Rita chortled as a green-faced man stumbled down the steps and off the bus, kneeling on the ground and cursing audibly. She threw her arm around Harry, her smile wide. "There are still three more stops before ours, remember?"
Harry's eyes went wide. "Oh yeah-"
His reflexes kicked in and he grabbed her again as the bus took off, and with her arm around him, Harry found most of his face buried against the left side of her chest. It wasn't a bad position, mind, but the buttons on her robe were digging into his ear. And when they stopped three more times, he knocked his forehead against her collarbone, not painfully, though.
"Diagon All'y!" the conductor cried, waving as Rita helped a stumbling Harry off of the bus and let him lean against an alley wall. The Knight Bus vanished with a crack, leaving them standing outside of the dingy-looking Leaky Cauldron, the last Potter wishing his roiling stomach would make up it's damn mind about vomiting or not. A warm hand stroking his back helped his gut settle and gave him the strength to glare up at her.
Harry was just full of surprises, because the look actually made her feel sheepish. "Sorry," she shrugged. "You haven't thrown up, unlike the first time I rode it, so you've got that going for you. And you have to admit, it was fun."
He kept up the glare a few seconds later, then broke and chuckled. "Yeah, it was kinda fun," he admitted, standing up and stretching, "I think I'm better now. To Diagon Alley?"
"To Diagon Alley," Rita agreed, offering her arm. Harry took it without hesitation, letting her take the lead into the pub, part of him wondering why he was so comfortable around her. Maybe because she'd been watching him for a week, and he'd accepted her presence unconsciously? They'd slept within five feet of each other after she revealed herself, something that normally wouldn't have happened to anyone. Or maybe it was hard not to feel comfortable with someone after you'd had your face mashed up against their boob?
Or, a quiet part of him chimed in, it's because you're similar, and you recognize it. Time would tell if she was genuine about helping him, but she seemed to be so far.
Rita hurried them passed the bar with only a cursory wave to Tom, leading Harry into the rubbish-lined alley in the back. She tapped a certain pattern (it was a circle) in certain bricks (they were directly in front of the back door at head-height), and the entryway folded open. "Welcome, Harry, to Diagon Alley!" She announced grandly, the bustling midday shopping crowd ignoring them.
He gave her a strange look, like he was wondering if she had suddenly become stupid. "I've been here before, you know," Harry said slowly. "Two times."
"I know, I just wanted to be dramatic," Rita said with a smile and a shrug, leading him down the Alley to the large, white marble building that was Gringotts bank. The armored, spear-wielding guards only acknowledged them with a split-second glance before they were in the door and walking up to a free teller. "Afternoon, we're here to retrieve this young man's key and also get an accounting of his family's holdings. And get him examined." She whispered the last part.
The beady-eyed short-arse at the desk looked down at them, his eyes focusing on Harry's scar and emerald eyes. Without a word, he grabbed what looked like an unmarked metal plate, like one used to carve names on, tapping in a random code with his clawed fingers. Within a minute, another goblin, this one with longer hair pulled back into a ponytail and wearing what would've been considered the height of fashion in Victorian England.
He waved for them to follow and strode away, his rapid pace giving the two taller humans a little trouble with keeping up. He lead them in what seemed to be several circles before pushing open a large golden door with some family's crest on it, a shield with crossed wands and a stag rearing in front of those. The goblin motioned for them to take a seat at one end of a round table while he sat at the other.
"You are Harry Potter?" he asked, his tone promising violence. At Harry's nod, the goblin passed a ledger and black quill over to him. "Verify."
Harry looked to Rita, who nodded. He reached out and took the quill, signing his name on the line at the bottom of the parchment, gasping quietly in pain as the letters were carved into the back of his hand, before they quickly healed.
The goblin reached over and plucked both ledger and quill from Harry, gazing deeply into the signature as it glowed gold. As the light faded, he sighed and absently ripped the page out, tossing it over his shoulder, where it caught fire and dispersed without any ashes.
Then, he opened his eyes wide, glaring fiercely at Harry. He stood up on his chair and slammed his hands on the surface of the table, rattling the whole thing. "It's about fucking time!"
A/N: And here you go, my first Harry Potter story in a long time. It's one of the few 'new' stories I'll be putting out soon, as well as a poll for which one you want to see done. So, if you want to see more of this story, remember to vote.
Anyway, this story comes as the result of the rather stagnant characterization of Rita Skeeter in most fanworks. For a place with the tagline, 'Unleash your imagination', people on FF can be really unimaginative. It's rare that I see Rita as anything other than a massive greedy bitch who stabs everyone in the back at the most opportune moment. Or, if the MC is particularly 'amazingly handsome every woman wants him' type deal, a horrid abhorrent admirer that is just so ugly you guys.
Well, I call bullshit. I've seen more fics were Umbridge is a good guy than Rita Skeeter, fucking Umbridge, you guys, so I declared No More! I'm going to write a story where Rita Skeeter is, well, not particularly a good guy, but someone that Harry can trust and rely on, and in the process, maybe give you guys a unique story. For the most part, anyway.
The first part of the story will be just Harry and Rita, hanging out and having fun over the summer, learning about magic and each other, respectively, and since she is going to be his mentor, expect Harry's Slytherin traits to get more screen time. I mean seriously, his most useful items in the whole series were his invisibility cloak, a map that can see everyone in Hogwarts, which is some 1984 shit, and his rampant nosiness. Sneaky and Nosy. Sounds kinda like an investigator, yeah?
Like, some kind of journalist, maybe?
It's not my intent to see Harry overpower and dominate the world as the beacon of light and hope and all that bullshit, but more to learn the powers of misdirection, information and blackmail.
It's gonna be good.
Anyways, hope you enjoyed and remember to vote on that poll. Thanks as always to NorthSouthGorem and Kurogane7 for editing and shit and myself, for also being there.
P.S. As for pairings, I'm going to be controversial and say there's not going to be a set one. Too many stories have Harry date one person, then declare they're in love for life even though they're still teens. That shit is so unrealistic, I swear. I know of only one couple, one who married when they got out of high school who are still together today. It is rare.
So, Harry's going to date around. Not seriously, and maybe a bit seriously later. Expect appearances by Susan Bones, Lavender and Parvati, Katie, maybe Luna, definitely Hermione. And that's just Third year.
Stay Awesome Some More.