Rita Skeeter was a witch who remembered every insult and every misdeed against her – no matter how small or insignificant. She was also a patient witch and would gain her revenge when she could, even when it took her years to achieve. Luckily for Rita her position as a reporter gave her plenty of opportunity to wreak her revenge on those who in her eyes had wronged her.
Over the years Rita had settled many scores via her writing and she'd ruined many an enemy with her sharp words and vicious articles. However, there was one witch she'd yet to get even with. The one witch who had gotten under her skin like no other. The witch who had bested her at only fifteen years old – Hermione Granger.
Rita still simmered with anger every time she thought about Hermione, even though fifteen years had passed since the incident. It had been during The Triwizard Tournament, and it had been Rita's first opportunity to really write about 'The Boy Who Lived', Harry Potter. It was through Harry that Hermione had entered her radar, and eager for gossip as Rita had always been, she'd wrote a few less than flattering articles about the young witch as she seemed to be involved with both Harry and his fellow champion, Bulgarian quidditch star, Viktor Krum.
Unfortunately for Rita she'd sorely underestimated Hermione and the young witch had discovered her most sordid secret – she was a secret animagi and used her animal form as a beetle to listen to juicy bits of gossip. Somehow Hermione had managed to catch Rita in her bug form and she'd subsequently blackmailed the reporter into stopping her reports on both her and Harry or else she would report her secret. Left with no choice, Rita had backed off but she'd never forgiven Hermione and had vowed that one day she would get her revenge.
However, getting revenge had been harder than Rita had anticipated as within three years of her run-in with Hermione, the young witch was being hailed a war heroine for her part in defeating Voldemort. Along with Harry and their other best friend, Ron Weasley, Hermione made up the so called 'golden trio', and the general wizarding public wouldn't hear a word said against them. As annoying as it had been for Rita to watch Hermione's star rise, she also knew it would provide her with the perfect opportunity to cut her down to size one day. After all, now she was famous it was going to be so much more fun to take her down.
But yet again Rita's plans hit a major stumbling block as less than a year after the end of the war, Hermione left the country. Initially Rita had hoped that she was running away from a falling out with her friends, which would create a scandal she would love to write about, but whenever Harry or Ron were asked about her, they still spoke about her with such warmth and affection and merely said she was travelling and that they still kept in touch with her.
Soon the travelling story turned into Hermione working abroad and aside from a few small appearances, such as at the weddings of her two best friends, the former Gryffindor seemed to have made her home away from Wizarding Britain, and as such away from Rita and whatever venomous articles she could have managed to write. Still, Rita clung onto her hopes for revenge, never forgetting the feisty witch who had dared to discover her little secret and blackmail her over it.
For years Rita harboured her hatred of Hermione, and then one rainy autumn day an ordinarily boring news conference at the Ministry of Magic changed everything. Rita had attended the conference representing The Daily Prophet as the Ministry unveiled the new Head of the Department of International Co-Operation. Recent rumours had suggested that the job was going to an outsider, not one of the lesser heads in the department, but still Rita hadn't expected anything special to happen. That was until the Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shackelbolt, revealed the new Head of International Co-Operation and it was none other than Hermione Granger.
Hermione's unveiling caused a bit of a stir among the press as no-one had any idea the war heroine was back in the country, let alone poised to take one of the most important jobs in the Ministry. As her colleagues threw questions at Hermione and Kingsley, Rita silently observed her adversary. At thirty years old, Hermione was a very attractive witch and since her teenage years she'd clearly learnt to make the most of her appearance. She'd also learnt to dress well and Rita could tell the clothes she was wearing were all decently made and possibly quite expensive.
Rita also had to admit that Hermione knew how to handle herself and she answered every question with dignity and aplomb. She refused to talk about her private life, but she had no problems with discussing the fact she'd spent the last ten years working in the French Ministry. By the end of the press conference, Rita could already see dozens of articles praising Hermione would be all over the press the following day. The golden girl had returned and once again was going to become wizarding Britain's pin-up of the perfect witch.
"Not if I have my way," Rita murmured, watching as the photographers scrambled to take a picture of Hermione. "Watch out Hermione Granger, I'm coming for you."
As Rita predicted the press were all over Hermione and her return. Rita however didn't include any praise in the articles she was forced to write about Hermione, and instead set about discovering all there was to know about the younger witch. It was incredibly easy to get hold of Hermione's work records and to check out the work she'd done in France. Not surprisingly she could only find positive records of Hermione's time in France and if all the reports were to be believed, Hermione was very good at her job.
Rita quickly worked out that professionally she couldn't touch Hermione, so she turned her attention to the brunette's private life. While Hermione's professional life was an open book, her private life was anything but and Rita struggled to find out even the simplest thing about Hermione's life outside of work. She couldn't find a home address for Hermione, nor could she find any evidence that she was married or had children.
Not that Rita was too surprised with the lack of information as most Ministry workers had their official records sealed to outsiders for security reasons. Hermione's best friend, Harry, was a perfect example of someone who lived in the public eye while keeping his private life completely separate. Everyone knew he was married to his childhood sweetheart, Ginny Weasley, and that they had three children together, but there were no more details about their life on public record. No-one knew where they lived, or even what their children looked like. Pictures had been released of Harry and Ginny's wedding, so the date of their nuptials was known, but nothing else about the ceremony was. It was the same with the children, with announcements made when Ginny gave birth, followed by one picture of the new-born, but then nothing else. Harry didn't talk about his family and the press respected his privacy. Judging from the lack of information Rita was finding out about Hermione, she suspected she was following in her friend's footsteps and keeping her private life to herself.
Not one to be deterred, Rita set out to discover all she could about Hermione's private life by herself. Within a month of Hermione's return, Rita had regularly taken to stalking the younger witch in the hopes of discovering something she could use against her. Unfortunately, Rita had never managed to get close enough to Hermione to place a tracking spell on her, so while she was able to stalk her movements for short periods of time, she was lost whenever Hermione used magic to hop from place to place. Even so, she managed to watch Hermione enough to come to the conclusion that her life outside of work was deadly dull and the only people she seemed to socialise with was her two best friends. Finding something to use against her was going to be hard, but Rita wasn't going to throw in the towel just yet. If she had to she would fabricate a story, but that was a last resort and one she would only take once she was sure there was no other way to destroy little miss perfect.
Six weeks after Hermione's return, Rita was indeed on the verge of fabricating a story about the young witch. Taking her on-off younger lover, Marcus Flint – who just so happened to be the son of one of her old school boyfriends, to a posh hotel for the evening, she told him about her dilemma as they enjoyed a luxurious meal in the five star restaurant before retiring to the cocktail bar and settling in one of the corner booths.
"You're playing with fire messing with Granger," Marcus warned. "I went to school a few years ahead of her, and even before I left she was getting a reputation."
"As what?" Rita asked, intrigued as to whether Marcus was going to tell her something juicy.
"As one of the brightest witches to ever attend Hogwarts," Marcus replied. "If you try and take her down Rita, you better be sure of what you're doing. Blatantly lying will play right into her hands."
"So you think I should wait for her to do something I can pounce on?" Rita asked with a sigh.
"I think it's better than fabricating something and ending up in trouble," Marcus said. "She could ruin you, Rita."
"No Marcus, I'm the one who's going to ruin her," Rita replied in a cold voice. "Now all I have to do is wait for her to mess up."
"Good luck with that," Marcus laughed as he raised his hand and waved at someone across the room.
Rita glanced up to see who her lover was waving to and spotted the distinct platinum blond hair of a Malfoy. Since the wizard in question had short hair and only looked to be around thirty, Rita quickly ruled out the head of the family, Lucius Malfoy, and decided that it must be his son, Draco. After the war, and his subsequent acquittal and the revelations about what he'd gone through at Voldemort's hands, Draco had issued a statement thanking those who had spoken up for him, which included the golden trio, and asked for some privacy to put his life back together. What had happened to him after that, Rita didn't know as he'd dropped off the radar and rumours had it he'd moved abroad.
"That's Draco Malfoy, isn't it?" Rita asked her lover.
"Yeah, he must be in the county for a while," Marcus answered.
"He doesn't live here?" Rita checked.
"No, France I think," Marcus replied. "He runs the European side of the Malfoy Empire. I haven't seen him for years. It must be well over a decade since I last spoke to him."
"Did you have a falling out?"
"Nah, we were just never that close," Marcus replied with a shrug. "I hear he's married now with two kids."
Rita nodded absent-mindedly as her focus was still on Draco. Or rather, it was on the witch he'd just slid into a booth beside. She was a bit too far away to see clearly, but she would have sworn she'd spotted the brunette curls of Hermione. Nudging Marcus, she drew his attention to where his friend was sitting to see if he had a better view of the pair.
"Is it her?" she hissed.
"I don't know," Marcus replied. He had a better view of Draco and the witch he was sitting with than Rita, but he didn't read the papers very often so he hadn't seen Hermione since school and he wasn't sure if she was the pretty witch with his old friend.
"I'm sure it is," Rita mumbled, rummaging in her bag for the small camera she always carried with her. "And if Malfoy is married and lives in France, this could be just the break I've been waiting for."
"You can't seriously be suggesting Draco and Granger are having an affair?" Marcus laughed.
"Why not?" Rita shrugged as she found the camera and subtly focused it across the room at the unaware couple. "And even if they're not, a bit of suggestion never hurt anyone."
Rita snapped half a dozen pictures of the pair, before checking what she'd captured. She could now clearly see that the witch was indeed Hermione, and she and Draco looked to be awfully friendly. Their heads were close together and they were whispering in a very intimate way.
"Maybe you're right," Marcus remarked as he took a look at the pictures Rita had snapped. "They do look awfully cosy."
"Let's see what else we can capture," Rita said, once again turning the camera on the couple across the room.
Rita snapped several more pictures before Hermione and Draco rose to their feet. Rita managed to grab a picture of Draco holding Hermione's hand as he helped her to her feet before they turned and exited the bar together.
"Come on," she hissed at Marcus. "Let's follow them."
Not giving her lover any choice, Rita took off after the couple. Spotting them heading towards the lifts, she grabbed another couple of pictures as they waited for the lift to arrive. She even managed a rather good picture of Draco leaning down to whisper in Hermione's ear as his hand cupped her backside.
"Got you, you little tart," Rita crowed as the couple entered the lift and just before the doors closed she grabbed a picture of Draco sliding his hand under Hermione's dress.
"So now you've got your story, how about we also head to bed," Marcus suggested, sliding his hand over Rita's curvaceous backside.
"I'm not finished yet," Rita informed her boyfriend. "I want to know what room they're in and I want a room either next door or above or below them."
"What are you going to do, try and get a picture of them in the act?" Marcus laughed.
"Exactly," Rita replied with a feral grin. "Hop to it Marcus. The sooner I get some pictures that will ruin Hermione Granger, the sooner you'll get some action. And don't forget, I'm always raring to go after I've taken down someone I despise."
Lured by the promise of even hotter sex than normal, Marcus did as Rita requested and after sweet-talking the receptionist he managed to book them into the suite next door to the one Draco was staying in. Heading on up to the correct floor, Rita hurried into the suite and without even bothering to look around she ran to the window and let out a squeal of joy when she found the suite had a balcony and it was only a short hop to the balcony beside which led into Draco's suite.
"Marcus, come and be a good boy and hop over to next door's balcony," Rita called.
"Hop?" Marcus queried, following Rita out into the crisp air. "Why not just apparate over there?"
"This is a fancy hotel, they'll have apparition wards around the place," Rita said, giving her lover a very unimpressed look at his lack of smarts. "But surely you can climb over to the next balcony, it's not that big of a gap."
"Okay, but if I fall to my death, I'm coming back to haunt you," Marcus muttered as he took the camera off Rita and worked out the best way to get from their balcony to the one beside.
Climbing up on the small wall which stopped people toppling over the side of the balcony, Marcus took a deep breath and hoping he'd judged the distance right, he jumped over to Draco's balcony. Fortunately, he had judged right and he landed on the opposite balcony with a slight roll. Getting to his feet he carefully approached the window and peered through a gap in the partially shut curtains. His gaze quickly fell to the couple kissing and undressing each other on the bed. Knowing that if he didn't act soon the pictures would be X-rated, Marcus snapped a dozen pictures that left no doubt as to what was happening in the room. He then jumped back over to his own balcony and showed Rita what he'd gotten.
"I've got her," Rita squealed excitedly as she gazed at the pictures that clearly showed Hermione getting intimate with Draco. "And you're sure Malfoy is married?"
"Almost certain," Marcus replied. "So do I get my reward now?"
Carefully putting her camera away, Rita dragged Marcus to bed and thoroughly thanked him for getting her the pictures that would help her ruin Hermione Granger's reputation.
Two days after her luck had finally turned, Rita was thrilled to see her article and damning pictures in the Sunday papers – which was the biggest selling edition of the week. War Heroine Cheats with Married Man, screamed the headline and the picture on the front page was a one of Draco and Hermione engaged in a passionate embrace on the bed of Draco's hotel room. More pictures were inside the paper and Rita's article was spread over four pages, not including the front page.
Rita had hoped to find out more about Draco's marriage and life before she wrote the article, but with all his money and influence he'd been able to keep details of his private life out of the public eye. However, she had found reports of Draco marrying nearly eight years ago in the archives of The Daily Prophet, and several mentions of the fact he now lived in France and ran the European side of the family's business. She'd also found a couple of rare interviews with Lucius, who mentioned his son's marriage and the fact he was now a grandfather. It was enough to prove that Draco was indeed married and Hermione was a homewrecker.
Rita was thrilled with the article and she spent the day on a high as she basked in the glory of her revenge. It may have taken her fifteen years, but finally Rita had gotten back at Hermione for humiliating her. And the best thing was that she hadn't even had to make anything up, Hermione had dug her own grave by cheating with a married man and being brazen enough to assume she wouldn't be caught out. Well, Rita had caught her out and she'd taken great pleasure in hanging the seemingly perfect witch out to dry.
Rita knew her article would have the rest of the press all over Hermione, and not wanting to miss out on humiliating her even further, Rita was at the Ministry bright and early the next morning. As she'd expected the press was out in force and when Hermione arrived at work, flanked by her two best friends, the photographers clamoured over each other to grab the best picture of the scarlet woman.
"Back off," Harry snarled as he and Ron pushed through the press with Hermione in-between them, looking annoyingly serene in Rita's opinion.
"Do you have anything to say, Miss Granger?" one of the reporters shouted. "How does it feel to know you've torn a family apart?"
Rita couldn't help but smirk as Hermione turned and glared at the reporter. Even though she looked as though butter wouldn't melt, her reputation was tainted and everyone knew what she really was.
"Is Mr Malfoy the first married man you've slept with?" another reporter questioned.
"Sod off, all of you, before we have you arrested," Ron growled.
"Have you never heard of freedom of the press, Mr Weasley?" Rita asked sweetly, smiling as Hermione glared at her with obvious hatred.
"Have you never heard of angry people accidently saying something they shouldn't?" Harry threatened, giving Rita a look that left her in no doubt that if she pushed too far he would spill her little secret.
As frustrating as it was, Rita backed off at Harry's threat and stood silently as Harry and Ron ushered Hermione into the lifts and away from the waiting press. However, before the lifts swept them away to their offices, Hermione spoke for the first time and announced a press conference for later that afternoon. Brimming with excitement about what Hermione could say to try and get out of the mess, Rita had dropped her in, the reporter returned to her office for a few hours before heading back to the Ministry and ensuring she had a front row seat for the impromptu press conference Hermione had called.
By the time the press conference was due to start, the atrium of the Ministry was packed to the gills with eager reporters. When Hermione entered the room, yet again with Harry and Ron at her side, the photographers went crazy to grab a picture of the witch at the centre of the biggest scandal to hit the wizarding world that year.
"As you're all aware I was the subject of a vicious report in yesterday's edition of The Daily Prophet," Hermione began, giving Rita a disgusted look as she spoke. "Not only was the report full of false facts, but it was extremely upsetting to me and my family. I've personally spoken to the editor of the Prophet and he's promised me that this will never happen to another person. No-one else will be a victim of such a nasty, libellous smear campaign."
Rita paled slightly as Hermione mentioned libel. In her world the threat of legal action could end a career. But then again for Hermione to be threatening legal action she would have to disprove Rita's claims, and everything Rita had wrote was true. Draco Malfoy was a married man, and there was no doubt that Hermione was sleeping with him.
"To address the article in question, I'd like to introduce my husband," Hermione continued. "Draco Malfoy."
Rita let out a small moan as Draco appeared from the side of the small stage and walked up to stand beside Hermione. Something was definitely wrong, and Rita was struggling to find the breath to ask the questions she knew needed asking. Fortunately the other reporters weren't as speechless and they began to bombard Hermione and Draco with questions.
"Not so fast," Hermione said, holding her hand up to stop the slew of questions being thrown their way. "Draco and I are married, and have being for eight years. We also have two children, although neither of them are here and we would appreciate their privacy being respected."
"So what was with the hotel?" one of the reporters shouted.
"We're in the middle of moving from France, and while out house is being sorted, we've been staying at a hotel," Draco explained. "Not that this is anything to do with anyone. We haven't done anything wrong, and we shouldn't have to be standing here answering questions that never should have been raised in the first place."
"This report is clearly the work of a vindictive reporter," Hermione added, giving Rita a pointed stare, even though everyone knew who had wrote the article. "A reporter, I might add, who didn't even bother to check her facts before printing such rubbish."
"Rubbish we have every right to take legal action over," Draco said.
"You can't," Rita spluttered, aware that several photographers were snapping pictures of her.
"We can," Hermione replied. "Unless of course, you hang up that poisonous quill of yours for good."
"You're going to ruin me," Rita whispered. This was so much worse than the last time Hermione had gotten the better of her as she'd done it so publically that her reputation was now in tatters.
"No Rita, you've ruined yourself," Hermione said gently. "You let your vendetta against me taint your judgement as a reporter. You published an article without fully checking the facts, and now you've got to face the consequences. So what will it be, Rita? Are you going to crawl away quietly, or should Draco and I contact our lawyers?"
With no other choice, Rita very publically announced the end of her career as a reporter. As she left the Ministry in shame, part of her was furious with Hermione for ruining her life, but a bigger part of her was angrier with herself. She'd been foolish to print the article without double checking all their facts, and her eagerness to ruin Hermione's reputation had ended up costing her the most important thing in her life – her career. Yet again Hermione Granger had gotten the better of her, and this time there was nothing Rita could do about it. Vengeance was not hers, and the only person who'd ended up getting hurt was herself.
Hermione had definitely had the last laugh – she had the perfect career, a gorgeous husband and undoubtedly two adorable children. Meanwhile Rita was all alone, and thanks to her petty nature she'd ruined her entire life by trying to bring down a witch who'd offended her fifteen years ago. As she arrived home, totally defeated, Rita decided that it was going to take a smarter witch than her to bring down Hermione Granger. Not that she ever thought it was going to happen. Hermione Granger was one of life's winners, and as of now, Rita was definitely a loser.