Disclaimer: Technically you could say all the Harry Potter books are mine since I have a copy of all six on my shelf. But sadly, the story and characters don't belong to me. :( Horrible thought, isn't it?
a.n.: This takes place during the 4th year… or else Rita wouldn't be there.
Rita Skeeter stalked down one of the many hallways in Hogwarts, looking for Harry Potter. The first test had been completed not even a week before and Rita was looking for another exclusive.
She turned down another corridor and flashed a grin when she saw a group of students at the other end, coming towards her. The woman quickened her step as she unclasped her crocodile skin bag and freed her Quick-Quotes Quill. Before she could ask the little Ravenclaw students on the whereabouts of Harry Potter, she caught their conversation. Apparently, they had just come from Potions class.
"He is absolutely mental!" cried one curly-haired boy. "Two feet of parchment by tomorrow? Doesn't he know we have other classes?"
"Oh, he knows," spat a girl with long blond hair. "He just wants to torture us. If we had had Slytherin students in the class, we wouldn't have such a stupid assignment."
"He shows so much favoritism, it's absolutely appalling," a taller boy snorted. By this time, Rita had reached the group of five and stopped them.
"Who do you happen to be talking about, children?" the woman asked sweetly. She donned her nicest imploring expression. The first years, however, were all silenced by her presence. They had been warned about her.
"Oh, come now. You can tell me," Rita added at their obvious hesitation.
"We... we were talking about Professor Snape, ma'am," a girl in the back admitted softly. Rita's notepad flew from her handbag and found the Quill, which was hiding behind the woman.
"So is this really how bad the teacher is?"
"No," said the curly-haired boy with a sad shake of his head. "Usually he's worse."
Rita prevented a grin from cracking on her face while her Quill zipped across the pad.
"Well, what does he do to you poor dears?" the woman asked with a concerned expression. The first years exchanged glances.
"Most of the time he just takes away points," replied the tall boy.
"From all the Houses except Slytherin's," the girl in the back added. "He practically lets them do whatever they bloody well please."
"And how can he get away with this?"
"Who knows. Maybe just because he's a teacher or a House Head," the boy in back, who had so far been silent, spoke up. Before Rita could ask another question, the Ravenclaw students informed her that they had other classes to get to and rushed past her.
Once they had left the corridor, the woman snatched up the notepad and began reading over the few pages. Then a wicked grin did spread across her face and she murmured, "Lovely."
Her next victims were two Hufflepuff students who appeared to be fifth years. The boys were the last in the group filing from the History of Magic class. Like the rest of the students, they looked extremely bored. One was rubbing an eye as if he had just woken up.
"Hello, there," Rita chirped. She held out a recently-manicured hand to make sure they stopped in their tracks. The boys nervously returned the greeting while exchanging glances. They, too, knew of Rita's reputation.
"During the slow periods of the Tournament, I'm starting pieces on the teachers. What are your thoughts on... Professor Snape?"
"I think he shouldn't be teaching. You'd think those rules about 'cruel and unusual punishment' would be in effect here... but apparently not," the boy with black hair said quickly.
"Really? And what makes you say this?" questioned the woman, a hand resting on her chin to give herself an intellectually concerned look.
"Absurd homework assignments, which sometimes he doesn't even accept, sometimes he makes us do them all over again, is one. Another is how he takes away House points for trivial things. Although he doesn't give Slytherin points all the time, he never deducts from them," replied the boy. His friend chuckled, nodding.
"This seems to be the popular opinion of him," Rita added with a prompting tilt of her head.
"If you call the opinions of the Hufflepuff, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw Houses popular," said the shorter boy with a grin. The Quick-Quotes Quill was in a writing frenzy.
"Well, if three of the four Houses dislike a teacher so much, why hasn't anything been done?"
"Because everyone's afraid of him," the black haired boy said simply.
"And the rumors of his past," added his friend. An excited grin again creased Rita's face.
"Rumors?" she repeated scandalously. "Lovely! Oh, do tell!" At her sudden enthusiasm, the two fifth years began edging away.
"It's... it's nearly dinnertime. We should go," announced the second Hufflepuff student before both boys hastened away.
Before the Great Hall was completely filled, Rita managed to corner Slytherin and Gryffindor students and get their takes on Snape. The Gryffindor third year bunch had the same mindset as the two houses she had already interviewed, and the Slytherin seventh years had nothing but wonderful things to say about their favorite teacher. With each interview, Rita learned new information and began thinking more and more that this story would cover the entire front page of the Daily Prophet.
After dinner the woman asked for directions to Potions class and was surprised when she was led to the dungeon.
"Poor lighting," she reported to her Quill. "It just feels damp down here... and what is that smell? Simply nauseating!" It took her a minute to locate the classroom, but she was excited to see Snape there, sitting behind his desk, grading papers. The Quill and notepad zipped behind her back as she entered.
"Professor! Imagine finding you here," Rita exclaimed. As she progressed further into the room, her gaze zipped all around, taking in everything with a semi-disgusted expression. Snape looked up at her briefly, bothered, then returned to viciously grading some poor Gryffindor's paper.
"If you're looking for the bathrooms, they're on the first floor. Not down here," the man said curtly. Rita gave a fake, dismissive laugh as she neared the desk.
"No, I was actually looking for you, Professor. Might I have a moment of your time?"
"I'm busy." Snape crossed off a whole paragraph of the student's report.
"I could wait until you're done grading," she suggested in a sensitive voice; it was obvious she didn't use that tone often.
"I will be checking the day's potions after this," said the Professor shortly. "I really have no time."
"Really, it won't take but five minutes."
"Whatever it is, it can wait," replied Snape. An edge entered his voice that he usually only used when talking down to students. Unlike his students, however, Rita did not shrink back in fear.
"Oh, come now. Do be a dear. I only have a few questions," she persisted. Her manicured hands were clutching the desk edge and she was leaning over it, trying to read the comments Snape was scrawling next to his vicious corrections.
When the professor's head snapped up, Rita straightened and put on an innocent, unconcerned expression.
"Miss Skeeter, what is your business here?" the man demanded.
"An interview," she said quickly, almost desperately. "I've already talked to some of your students and now I want to hear your side of the story." Her nails were nearly digging into the desk and it appeared that she would not go, even if he positively declined to participate.
"An interview?" repeated Snape with an air of disgust.
"Yes, to really get to know the teachers of Hogwarts," Rita said, regaining her composure. "It won't take but five minutes."
"I'm sure you could find a much more interesting teacher. Professor... Flitwick, perhaps?" Snape replied almost carelessly. He did not look up from the paper. Rita gave a fake laugh and an equally fake dismissive wave of her hand, which the teacher didn't see.
"Oh come now. Don't be modest. You are quite possibly the most infamous teacher this school has had in decades. You certainly are the most scandalous piece of news here..." At that, Snape's eyes flicked up and stared at her in a hard, warning sort of way. Rita cleared her throat and sat on the edge of the desk, pushing a stack of books further away to make more room for herself. In doing so, she knocked a pile of essay papers that were behind the books onto the floor.
"Oh! How terribly clumsy of me!" the woman said genuinely, but made no attempt to pick them up. Neither did Snape.
"It's where they all belong, anyway," muttered the Professor. Rita checked her hair and cleared her throat again, but was ignored by her interviewee.
"Now then," she said suddenly, "how long have you been teaching here?"
Snape was thoroughly convinced by now that he would not be rid of this maddening woman until he had answered at least some of her questions. But there was no reason he couldn't be difficult about it. So he replied, "Long enough to get an article written in such a paper as the Daily Prophet it would seem." He finished his last comment on the essay and stacked the parchment uncaringly on a nearby pile. Snape picked a report from the mess on the ground, freshened his quill, and immediately began scribbling complaints and corrections.
"Then how do you explain such an extended teaching career when three out of the four Houses hate you?" Rita kept her fake smile when the Professor's head shot up.
"I am not here for a popularity contest, Miss Skeeter. I am kept here because the Headmaster recognizes the job I'm doing instead of what the students think of me. If I seem like a hard teacher, it is because of... their lack of character and discipline." He was noticeably careful with his word choice at the end. He had seen Rita's articles lately. And though he enjoyed their effects on Potter and his grubby friends, he knew he still had to watch what he said around this reporter.
"Or maybe does Dumbledore keep you because he knows something about your alleged scandalous past that no one else knows?" Rita asked, leaning forward. Snape straightened; she finally had his full attention. There was a subtle difference in his expression and now he was looking curious. He looked mad, too, instead of annoyed like before, and Rita slowly leaned back again.
"Miss Skeeter, it was my assumption that you were here to talk about my teaching, not anything I allegedly did previous to my position here at Hogwarts."
Rita responded to his growing scowl with a cheery smile, flashing a couple of gold teeth. "Background information, dear. The readers love to know the history that motivates you... and how your shady past somehow catapulted you into this teaching position that Dumbledore lets you have though everyone else disagrees is what the Daily Prophet readers need to know." Through her speech, Rita kept leaning further and further across the desk and now she was eye-level with Snape. He remained silent, but continued to scowl. Rita straightened.
"I hear that you have been vying for the position of the Dark Arts teacher for years. If Dumbledore fights the mounting opposition of your Potions teaching position, why not just let you have that job?" She propped her chin on her hand and donned an intellectual look.
Snape's eye twitched at her twisted description and he said in as calm a tone as he could force, "Dumbledore finds teachers he believes are more fitting." Instantly, he returned to grading, scribbling with renewed rage.
"So you don't agree with the Headmaster's choices?" Snape didn't answer, but it didn't matter because Rita spoke again before he would've had time to reply. "But of course you don't. Three years ago the teacher was possessed by You Know Who, two years ago the teacher was a liar and a plagiarist, last year the teacher was a werewolf... I wonder what problem will arise with the current Dark Arts teacher... what's his name again?"
Snape stabbed his quill into his ink bottle so hard that the desk shook. He wrenched it out and blobs of ink flew everywhere, a couple of drops landing on Rita's hand. "Alastor Moody," he growled through gritted teeth.
"Or does the Headmaster choose other men because he knows you'll have even bigger problems than all the others before? Because of your... past, probably?"
Snape scribbled even more vigorously, and his comments on the innocent little Hufflepuff's report grew meaner and meaner.
"Miss Skeeter," he said at last, not looking up, "I highly doubt your readers will care to be reminded of facts they already know. If you really want to bother me with an interview, at least waste my time on better questions." The professor scribbled on as if he was then ignoring her. He had no reason to be polite to her; she didn't deserve pleasantries. As a reporter, it was almost a rule not to be pleasant. Snape saw through all her fake smiles.
He figured this was what Potter had endured, but felt no pity for him. Snape felt no pity for himself for being cornered like this, either. But now he knew that half of Potter's exclusive was probably lies. It was of little consequence to the teacher, just that he couldn't deny the falsity of half the articles written about the students. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.
Rita had been quiet for several moments, lips pressed in a displeased line. The Quill dangled impatiently behind her back.
"Professor," she spoke up sweetly. That immediately made Snape suspicious. Rita's fake smile reappeared. "I heard a lovely bit of news from one of your students and I was wondering if you could confirm or deny it." That was polite for her. Snape set his quill back in the ink bottle and look straight at her.
"It's a little rumor around the school that you spent some time as a Death Eater and was in–"
"Who exactly did you hear this rumor from?" interrupted the professor. Rita's smile beamed on.
"I'm sorry, but I can't reveal my sources."
"No names needed, just what House the student is from."
"So you can cruelly wrench away points from those terrified students who are just trying to get by?" Rita added quickly, arching a heavily penciled brow.
"Terrified students? Did you question the first years of every House?" muttered Snape. He picked up his quill again and browsed through the report again until he found where he left off. "I discipline by subtracting points. These students need discipline. All the other teachers are too easy on them."
"Can I quote you on that?" questioned Rita, almost eagerly.
"Haven't you been quoting me on everything else?" Snape stopped reading then and slowly looked up at the reporter. He had been so annoyed with her that he hadn't even noticed... where was her notepad? How was she quoting him at all? She couldn't possibly remember everything.
Rita sensed a change in his reactions and instantly changed tactics. "What teacher here do you most admire?" She saw his critical stare sweep over her.
"Professor Flitwick," Snape sneered at last. He set his quill on the parchment, letting the tip dribble a few drops of ink, blacking out a word. "Miss Skeeter, what was that question you asked a little bit ago... with the Headmaster in it...?" He folded his hands together on the desk and watched the reporter expectantly. Rita's smile flickered. She readjusted her glasses in a stalling way.
"Oh, that was probably one of those questions you didn't want to answer because it didn't quite stick to your teaching career." Rita waved her hand in a matter-of-fact sort of way as she talked. Snape arched a brow.
"'Probably?'" he repeated. "You don't know for sure?"
"Well then, it wasn't important, was it?" the reporter said with a smile of finality. She readjusted her hair. "Now then. Every teacher has a favorite student. Who's yours?"
"Draco Malfoy. He has the character of a leader." Snape watched her closely, trying to figure out how she was keeping notes. It couldn't be in her head– no one had that good of a memory.
"Oh, but he's in your own House. What student from other Houses do you like?" When the professor remained silent, Rita prompted, "Harry Potter, perhaps?"
A cruel smile flashed across Snape's mouth, too fast for Rita to catch. "Of course. Who doesn't adore the Boy Who Lived? I even heard the Ministry was going to make it illegal for anyone not to like Harry Potter. The crime would earn you a month or two in Azkaban."
For several seconds, Rita was speechless, staring almost wide-eyed at the teacher through her glasses. Then, unexpectedly, she broke out laughing. Fake laughter, of course. "Oh, it was a joke! Lovely, I understand. You are a kidder, aren't you, Professor Snape?" She added a few more hollow laughs. "I see humor is your strong suit."
"Just as reporting is yours." To his slight disappointment, Rita took it as a compliment. Snape picked up his quill in the silence that followed but suddenly stopped, listening. He heard scribbling. Very fast scribbling. The professor nonchalantly put his quill into the ink bottle and rose to his feet.
"Miss Skeeter," he began slowly, listening all the while for the sounds of writing, "a wonderful follow-up to this interview would be one with Professor... Flitwick, let's say. He sees Harry Potter quite often. A favorite student of his as a matter of fact, I believe." Snape was inching his way around the desk. He was certain the scribbling was coming from her... she was hiding it. He just didn't know where.
Rita seemed to be considering the idea. The Quick Quotes Quill and the notepad were inching around the reporter, trying their best not to be seen. They kept her body between them and the professor at all times.
"How lovely!" Rita exclaimed at last, jumping off the desk. She turned to face Snape and once again the Quill was sheltered behind her back. "What if you introduce me to Professor Flitwick? He is, as you said, something of a mentor after all. Then we could have a little back and forth between you two and it'll be lovely. The readers will eat it up. Front page news for sure: Hogwarts Teachers and What They Really Think of Each Other." She had moved her hand quickly to the right with each headline word and had nearly whacked the Potions professor in the head.
Snape pretended to be giving the suggestion some thought. "Let's... not and say we did."
Rita looked shocked. "You mean lie to my faithful readers?" she asked in a scandalous tone.
"I'm sure it wouldn't be hard, Miss Skeeter."
"I would never lie to my adoring audience!" the reporter said with such genuine ardor that Snape expected a halo to appear above her head at any moment.
However, he replied, "See? That was utterly convincing. Well done."
Rita's saintly expression vanished and she stared at Snape almost coldly. "I'm not about to guess what you're implying, Professor, but I'm sure I can't put that in my paper."
"Your paper?" he repeated. An appeasing smile flickered on Rita's features. As she quickly searched for something to say, Snape again heard that mad scribbling. Now he knew exactly where it was coming from.
The professor dove behind Rita in a swoop that Fawkes couldn't even have attempted. When the woman turned around, Snape had her notepad in one hand and her struggling quill in the other.
"A Quick-Quotes Quill?" he questioned in his condemning, authoritative teacher's voice. It made Rita flinch. "This is illegal in Spain and Canada and how many of the American states?"
"Only a few," the reporter said with a nonchalant wave of her hand. She reached for her confiscated things but Snape pulled them further away. She sheepishly gritted her teeth as the professor examined the notes.
"Rita asks if Professor Snape will introduce her to Professor Flitwick, Snape's beloved mentor who had taken the edgy teacher under his wing from the start. Snape seems caught up in old memories as he still circles his desk, piled with students' papers he never will read. 'Let's not and say we did,' replies Snape. It looks like the greasy professor has other things on his mind–" The man's head shot up. "Were you intending to print this?"
"Well, of course I'd go over it and... and edit it... afterwards," Rita said quickly. She grimaced as Snape leafed through previous pages.
The professor's expression grew grimmer and more disgusted with each passing moment. So this is what had happened to Harry Potter. At least that was funny. This was just tasteless.
Finally Snape had had enough and he snapped the notepad closed. He looked at the reporter as if she were a weak Ravenclaw first year. "Miss Skeeter, I will pretend this interview never took place. Just be on your way. I have work to do." Rita again reached for her possessions, but the professor moved them behind his back. Rita put on the most pathetic, pleading smile Snape had ever seen.
"You may keep the notes, but the Quill is the property of the Daily Prophet. I'm just borrowing it." Her hand inched forward.
"Does the paper hand these out ot all their reporters?" Snape questioned, slight surprise in his tone.
"Well... possibly. It's not illegal here, you know."
"Yet." He eyed Rita's creeping hand and figured the quickest way to get rid of her was to give her what she wanted. The professor brought the Quill out from behind his back and held it out to her. She reached for it and Snape again withdrew it from her grasp.
"Just to be clear: if you use this again on me or anyone in my House, I will take it, Daily Prophet property or not, and you will never see it again." This time he let Rita take the Quill, which seemed to be shivering with fear. The woman quickly slipped it into her purse.
"Well, Professor Snape, it was a... um... pleasure, let's just say, to meet you. Now I see why your students say what say about you." Rita hung her purse on her arm. "I must have an article in a couple of days, so can you suggest someone I can interview?"
Snape looked down at the notepad in his tightly grasped hand, then up at her. "Professor Flitwick." A fake laugh escaped Rita's lips.
"Is he really a professor you admire?"
"Interview him and see," the Potions teacher said shortly as he reclaimed his seat and grading quill. Rita turned and walked toward the entrance as if she had scored the best interview since Harry Potter's.
"Oh, and Miss Skeeter," Snape called once she reached the doorway. "It's thirty-nine."
"Pardon?" asked the woman, tapping her nails on the door frame impatiently.
"The number of American States in which your Quick-Quotes Quill is illegal," Snape said without looking up.
"Well, out of sixty, that's not bad," she said. Rita gave an uninterested wave of her hand and left, leaving Snape to stare after her. He gave a disgusted shake of his head before opening a desk drawer of confiscated student's things he had collected over the years and dropping the notepad into it. Hopefully it would be hidden amongst all the Weasley twins' junk and never be found.
The next evening as Snape made his way to the teacher's table in the Great Hall, he caught a glimpse of Flitwick coming down the middle aisle, nervously rubbing his little hands together. The Potions teacher took his regular seat and waited for the half-goblin to pass.
"Professor, is something the matter?" Snape muttered. Flitwick jumped, quite surprised at who was inquiring.
"Oh, no, Professor... well, possibly. I will be fine if that Skeeter reporter doesn't show up." Flitwick cast a quick, searching glance all around the Hall.
"Oh? Has she been bothering you, Professor?"
"I'd be grateful if it was just bothering me. I think she's stalking me!" Another check of the Hall. "Funny thing, however... many of her question rampages lead back to you, Professor."
Snape tried not to appear too startled when his whole body snapped around in the chair to face Flitwick. The Potions teacher grasped his spoon and whacked it on the edge of the table. He didn't even notice that decapitated his silverware. Upon seeing that, Flitwick began edging away but Snape held out a hand. "Professor, if Miss Skeeter bothers you any more, just inform me."
"Ah... why, Professor? What will you do?" Flitwick seemed apprehensive as he questioned, and shrunk back afterward as if he expected to be lashed out at.
"Oh, nothing much. I just remembered I have a draught that will turn one mute for a week," Snape said almost pleasantly, returning his headless spoon to its place.
"If only her words were the problem," sighed Flitwick. "But just her presence makes you feel like... like..."
"...You want to stab yourself to death with your own quill?" Snape finished. The other teacher nodded quickly.
"Yes, yes! That's exactly it, Professor."
"Well, there is a potion that will make sure miss Skeeter stays far away from you, but..." he paused to look around himself, "that kind of magic is not fit to be discussed here, Professor."
Flitwick nodded conspiratorially, looking a great deal relieved. "Thank you, Professor. I'll see you after dinner about it then."
"Professor," Snape replied with a concluding nod. Flitwick hurried off to his own seat as food began appearing. The Potions teacher fixed his spoon and as he looked up around the Hall, he noticed Rita peering in. She disappeared just as fast.
Snape sneered. He figured he could get in trouble for giving a reporter a harmful potion, but that trouble wouldn't come from anyone at Hogwarts. Not even the Headmaster.
"Sixty states," he muttered, clenching the spoon again.